The intersection and friendship between artists and musicians have created some of the most iconic works in the 20th century. From Andy Warhol’s “Debbie Harry,” silkscreen’s, to Chuck Close’s many renderings of Philip Glass, it is not a surprise that the legendary artist and enfant terrible Jean-Michel Basquiat also turned his creative eye to musicians. Most widely known for his paintings inspired by Jazz Musician Charlie Bird Parker, a lesser known relationship between Basquiat and another musician of the time has recently been discovered.
Jean-Michel Basquiat created, Untitled (Arto Lindsay) in 1982, the same year he began to gain traction in the art world. In March of 1982, Basquiat held his first one-man show in New York City at the Annina Nosei Gallery in SoHo. The exhibition was a huge success, leading to another solo show in April at Larry Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles. By the fall of 1982, Basquiat’s relationship with dealer Annina Nosei took a nose-dive, and the artist went to work in his Crosby Street lower-east-side studio. During this time, Basquiat is quoted as saying, “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.” Basquiat produced some of his greatest works in the Crosby studio, which were shown later that year at the Fun Gallery in New York City. These works were dubbed by Nicolas Moufarrege to be “his best show yet. He was at home; the hanging was perfect, the paintings more authentic than ever.”
“Arto,” the man with the round-glasses depicted in this work is the musician Arthur Morgan Lindsay—himself an avant-garde artist known to push the limits of traditional musical style. Lindsay who is still an active musician today, was part of the pioneering No Wave New York music group DNA (1978-1982). DNA was featured in the film Downtown 81 (1981), which features Jean-Michel Basquiat running into the band and Arto while on a quest to sell his artwork. It is not clear whether Untitled (Arto Lindsay) was ever shown in a gallery exhibition, or if it was given as a present at some point to the musician by Basquiat. It is known however, that this work was created during one of the most creative periods in Basquiat’s career, and its depiction of another fixture of New York City’s art scene of the early 1980’s will certainly pique the most astute collectors’ attention.