50 Cent Piece, 1982-83/2019
From an edition of 60
The artwork bears the signatures of Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux, Administrators of the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat on verso as well as the stamps of The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat
29 × 39 1/2 inches (73.7 × 100.3 cm.)
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Jean-Michel Basquiat was an African-American painter, poet, musician and graffiti prodigy who has become one of the most prominent cultural figures and pop icons of the 20th century. Contrast and dichotomy were a hallmark of the work that he created in his short life, as he died of a heroin overdose at the age of 27. With a particular interest in the human experience, his pieces investigated the sharp contrasts in the world around us between black and white, wealth and poverty, inner and outer. Quickly ascending to the highest levels of the art world by the time he was 20, Basquiat used scribbled words, elusive symbols and recurring heads and skulls to reference socio-political issues, popular culture imagery, Biblical messages and his Caribbean heritage.
Released by the Estate of Basquiat and based on the artist’s work on paper of 1982-83, 50 cent piece condemns unfree labor and the commodification of bodies still present in its contemporary cultural narrative. Featuring Marcus Garvey, the Jamaican political activist starring on the 50-cent national coin, Basquiat echoes his Back-to-Africa movement. The artist’s personal iconography, composed of poetic declarations, cryptic codes and charged words, confers to the hectic composition a unique enchanting musicality. Basquiat holds the record for the highest price ever paid at auction for an American artist’s work.