Some historical artistic events don’t truly gain the appreciation or traction their scope deserves without hindsight. One such event is the legendary collaboration between Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, an event that was given a lukewarm reception on its debut—but in recent years seems to have gotten considerable exploration, including a play examining the event. With this renewed interest in the meeting of these two titans, it’s no wonder that Basquiat x Warhol has cropped up at Fondation Louis Vuitton.
Basquiat x Warhol opened on April 5th and runs until August 28th of this year, and this new exhibition of the inspired collaborative paintings that Basquiat and Warhol crafted together also brings with it an entirely new context. Where once this electric meeting of minds and eccentric personas was presented to their friends, peers, and droves of New York hipsters and nightlife to a fizzle of interest at large, they are now presented in a paragon of modern presentation in the stark trappings of grand, white spaces for the Parisian art elite.
The full title, Basquiat x Warhol. Painting four hands, highlights the unity of collaborative spirit that drove this pair through months of work. They ultimately created 160 canvases together, and the exhibition displays over 300 works and documents that dig into this historical moment. From the delirious blur of modern imagery and expressionist rebellion denoted in the paintings to the iconic promotional material in the form of the pair garbed in boxing gloves, all the pieces are here to put together the closest approximation of that first exhibition.
“I think those paintings we’re doing together are better when you can’t tell who did which parts,” Warhol had said of the works. That seamless merging of style certainly shows in a number of the collaborations, making for a less obvious exquisite corpse. But while this facet may have interested Warhol most, an unsurprising opinion from the man who loved to toy with how he was perceived, the paintings such as the legendary 6.99 where the particular imprint of each artist is so recognizable, standing out as much as their edges inevitably merge, feels like the true essence of their joined abilities to this day.
Louis Vuitton’s Basquiat x Warhol is a well-timed dive back into these once fraught waters—the original event took a great toll on Warhol, as evidenced in the recent docuseries The Warhol Diaries. While there may not have been nearly as much appreciation of these works at first reception, critical opinion certainly seems to have swayed. Now, with the renewed perspective on both of these artists, one where we see them as people and not simply how they desired to be seen, this collaboration seems to be an endless well of curiosity for art lovers everywhere.