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Jean-Michel Basquiat, Portrait with Jack Kerouac (Invitation to Basquiat's final exhibition), 1988
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Portrait with Jack Kerouac (Invitation to Basquiat's final exhibition), 1988
Offset lithograph fold-out announcement for Basquiat's final exhibition
Offset print, 6″ x 9″ (folded); 10 1/2″ x 9″ (splayed open)
Beyond scarce! Exhibition invitation for Basquiat's show at Vrej Baghoomian Gallery, NY, April - June 1988, photograph by (French photographer) Jerome Schlomoff. Historic, uncommon offset lithograph fold-out invitation from what would become the very last exhibition of Basquiat's short life. Indeed, what makes this exhibition invitation so extraordinary is that this exhibition ended June 11th, 1988 - almost exactly two months before Basquiat's own life ended, at the age of 27, on August 12, 1988. Some would later say that Basquiat's death seemed almost foreshadowed by the announcement’s austere design, colorless palette, and solemn portrait photograph. In the photo, he clutches the copy of Jack Kerouac’s The Subterraneans which Basquiat, an autodidact, is said to have kept in his suitcase wherever he went, (The semi-autobiographical novel is about Kerouac's affair with an African-American woman, and his entree into the world of Jazz.) Basquiat famously had a falling out with the notoriously sketchy Vrej Baghoomian, and he is said to have boycotted the opening reception on April 29th.
This invitation was printed in Basquiat's lifetime - making it such a collectible. Phoebe Hoban reported in her biography, "Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art": .."the FBI in 1994 investigated a matter in which Vrej Baghoomian, the dealer who represented the painter at the time of his death, had sold five fake Basquiats at a Paris art fair. Though he apparently hadn’t made the fakes himself, and was never convicted, “Vrej was a big crook,” says the artist Rick Prol, Basquiat’s last assistant. “He got kicked out of the art world, and then he died....We do know that Basquiat was falling apart in 1988. Prol helped the artist prepare for what became his final show, at the Vrej Baghoomian Gallery that spring. “He seemed like a ghost—like something was gone,” remembers Prol, who had been hired by Baghoomian in hopes that he might inspire the barely functioning artist. “He didn’t seem interested in anything—sex, or seeing anybody, or doing the work. He seemed very isolated and alone.”" - Liza Ghorban, New York Magazine, 2011. Again - this was the very last announcement created for his very last exhibition before Jean-Michel Basquiat died at the young age of only 27. Basquiat boycotted the opening, refused to sign or do meet and greets for the show. (Color us beyond skeptical when signed ones alight in the market, as he is not known to have signed any copies of the invitation or poster.)