Basquiat is believed to have first met Warhol in 1979, but their formal collaboration began in 1982 when they were brought together by their art dealer, Bruno Bischofberger, and involved a partnership with Italian artist Francesco Clemente. After creating 15 paintings with Clemente, Basquiat and Warhol continued their collaboration. Basquiat was a rising star on the New York art scene, known for his bold, graffiti-inspired paintings that explored themes of race, class, and power. Warhol, on the other hand, was already an established American-icon, famous for his Pop Art style and his fascination with celebrity culture.
Basquiat invited Warhol to work with him on a series of paintings that they called ‘à quatre mains,’ or four hands. The idea was simple: each artist would contribute to the same canvas, working side-by-side to create a joint work of art. The resulting paintings were a blend of Basquiat's gritty, street-inspired style and Warhol's pop sensibility, with bold colours, bold lines, and often whimsical imagery. The exhibition showcases the creative synergy between Warhol and Basquiat, highlighting their dynamic exchange of styles and ideas. While Basquiat looked up to Warhol as a mentor, Warhol rediscovered his passion for painting through their joint work.
Notable pieces in the exhibition include the ten-metre-long African Mask canvas and the Ten Punching Bags (Last Supper), which blends religious iconography with contemporary culture. On each punch bag, Warhol painted a portrait of Christ from Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Basquiat then added his trademark graffiti crowns and the word ‘judge’ above Jesus and his disciplines.The exhibition also offers a unique glimpse into the vibrant energy of the 1980s New York downtown art scene, displaying individual works of contemporaries like Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer, Kenny Scharf, and Michael Halsband.
Today, the collaborative works of Basquiat and Warhol remain a testament to the power of artistic collaboration. Their joint efforts challenged traditional notions of authorship and ownership, and helped to pave the way for a new generation of artists who embraced a more fluid, collaborative approach to art-making. The Basquiat x Warhol: Painting Four-Handed exhibition is available to the public now and will run until August 28.