Jean Michel-Basquiat’s short but prolific career resulted in a body of work that was about “speed.” As Andy Warhol once said about him, “I’m really jealous — he’s faster than me.” Whether Basquiat was cribbing images from reference books or from the streets, he was able to synthesize these marks and regurgitate them in rapid fire. Basquiat’s work is anchored by drawing, whether on canvas or paper. Understanding the marks he made is the key to determining authenticity.
Potential works by Basquiat will be evaluated on their visual content, materials used to create them, and whether their provenance is accurate. Though Basquiat worked with a limited group of galleries, a fair number of paintings and drawings exhibited at these spaces are documented. But he was also notorious for selling out of his studio to dealers, collectors, and speculators who offered quick “cash and carry” deals. Much of the work that left his studio were minor sketches and scraps on paper — which might have been of questionable quality — but are nonetheless real. Though more problematic, these pieces can be authenticated through diligent research.