Dead Presidents: 555-PREZ Basquiat
The Citizen managed to catch up with Basquiat who spoke with us from his NoHo art studio on Great Jones Street in Brooklyn, New York. There’s a lot of shuffling on the other end. He’s busy, so I make a mental note of not speaking too long because I do plan on meeting up with Warhol next in Brooklyn as well. We don’t want to ruin it, do we?
The phone doesn’t ring long and we have him on the line. His surprisingly softly spoken greetings catch me off guard and I figure I should jump straight into the telephonic interview.
J Lubala: Hey Jean, I have photographs of a bunch of your works in front of me. How detailed and intricate is your creative process?
Basquiat: Hi Jonathan. I start a picture and I finish it. I don’t think about art when I’m working. I try to think about life.
J Lubala: Paint, paint, paint. I want to see some work with a pencil at the very most.
Basquiat: Believe it or not, I can actually draw. The more I paint the more I like everything.
J Lubala: It does more than pay your bills. You’ve come a long way. What drove you to achieve all this?
Basquiat: I initially thought I was going to be a bum for the rest of my life, but then I wanted to build up a name for myself.
J Lubala: How much changed for you after meeting Andy?
Basquiat: I had some money, I made the best paintings ever. I was completely reclusive, worked a lot, took a lot of drugs. I was awful to people.
J Lubala: But that was the idea right?
Basquiat: I wanted to be a star, not a gallery mascot. Since I was seventeen I thought I might be a star. I’d think about all my heroes, Charlie Parker, Jimi Hendrix… I had a romantic feeling about how these people became famous.
J Lubala: The critics call you a junkie. I just think that’s personal and has nothing to do with your work. What are your thoughts on critics?
Basquiat: I don’t listen to what art critics say. I don’t know anybody who needs a critic to find out what art is.
J Lubala: I couldn’t agree more there. It has all to do with where you’re based.
Basquiat: The country makes me more paranoid, you know? I think the crazy people out there are a little crazier.
As the sound of Basquiat’s voice ceases along with the rapid shuffling. With the pre-conceived woes of cross border phone calls, I realize my conversation with Basquiat has been shortened even further than I’d initially planned.
I don’t comment on visual art as much as people would like me to – it’s not exactly an extraordinary talent being able to identify different art movements and their stylistic characteristics, beliefs and motifs – I’d rather let you make of it what you will. What I can do is confirm that the man paints while wearing some of the finest suits by the likes of Gucci & Co. Enjoy this collection of some of Basquiat’s finest works: