Andy Warhol (Pittsburgh, United States, 1928 - New York, United States, 1987), Jean-Michel Basquiat (New York, United States, 1960-1988) and Francesco Clemente (Naples, Italy, 1952) produced an artistic collaboration together during 1984 and 1985 at the suggestion of gallerist Bruno Bischofberger on this universal triad. The idea originally came up during a visit by Basquiat to the gallery owner and dealer’s home in St. Moritz. Basquiat -and Clemente- had painted in the past with Cora, Bischofberger's daughter in the family guestbook. The New Yorker had even painted an acrylic on canvas with the little girl who at that stage was not even four years old, in this way the gallerist proposed a collaboration with Warhol, whom Basquiat admired, and another artist.
Ruling out Julian Schnabel, Basquiat suggested Clemente, one of the most renowned artists of the Italian trans-avant-garde and whose friend he had been for some time. Thus emerged a series of fifteen paintings that were exhibited in September 1984 at the Bischofberger Gallery in Zurich at an exhibition entitled Collaborations-Basquiat Clemente Warhol. The age difference between the artists -Warhol at that time was 56, Clemente was 32 and Basquiat was 24- enriched the project.
After this experience, Warhol and Basquiat continued working together on dozens of collaborations that materialised into large-scale canvases. Warhol relished the energy and spontaneity of the young artist, who, influenced by the Pop Art master, had begun to include silk-screens in his work. Similarly, Warhol began painting freehand again on the recommendation of Basquiat, recovering some of the content that he had worked on canvas during the early sixties. In mid-1985, Basquiat began to distance himself from the intense relationship they had kept in recent months. The review published in the New York Times following the 1985 exhibition at Tony Shafrazi Gallery where their common work was exhibited was, obviously, one of the main reasons for their definitive estrangement. Warhol's death two years later made impossible a reunion between two artists who had one of the most fruitful, artistic synergies in art history.
This exhibition at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía exhibits, for the first time in Spain, a group of forty-seven pieces of which ten are collaborations between Warhol, Basquiat and Clemente. Each worked separately on the canvas that was then delivered to the next to continue painting over it. They did it independently, without consulting each-other on aspects such as iconography, style, size or technique, however, the results seemed to be part of the greater plan. Among those pieces present at the exhibition are: Pure, Premonition, Pole Star and Pimple Head. There are thirty-three canvases from Warhol and Basquiat collaborations dating between 1984 and 1985 including: Chair, Drug King, 6.99, Ailing Ali In Fight Of Life, Mind Energy and Sin More, this last one reaching five metres long.
Also present in the exhibition are two collaborations between Basquiat and Clemente: Kiss and Number Five, both from 1984, and Basquiat's portrait of Clemente from 1982, a year after the Italian arrives New York and the watercolour where Clemente immortalises Basquiat in 1986, two years before his death.