New York Magazine has a story about the controversy surrounding what might be Jean-Michel Basquiat’s last painting. Because it is owned by a former heroin dealer, some wonder whether the work was denied authentication by the estate because it reveals too much about Basquiat’s actual life. Nonetheless, even without the background battle over the artist’s legacy, there are real problems authenticating Basquiat’s later work:
Authenticating Basquiat is tricky. He left unsigned scribbles all over the place: on grocery lists, on kitchen cupboards, even on a bra. “I know people who still have things he did on the walls, and [when they move], they’re like, Can I get it removed?” says Fred “Fab 5 Freddy” Brathwaite, a close friend of Basquiat’s.
The door painting is not signed, and it lacks Basquiat’s signature symbols, like the crown or copyright trademark. It does display devil horns, which he’d painted at least once before. The saying painted on the figure’s nose—YELL AN EYE FOR AN EYE—has the jangle of a Basquiat slogan. (The silver lettering at lower left is a later tag, almost surely not Basquiat’s.) More than one expert pointed out that Basquiat’s E’s, unlike these, are usually three parallel lines, without the vertical stroke; however, paintings from his final year do contain traditional E’s. They also include solitary figures, as in 1988’s Riding With Death, one of Basquiat’s last paintings, which shows a man riding a skeleton like a horse. Those in the know have called his later work “simple,” “lazy,” and “flatter and more cartoonish”—some of the same terms applied to this painting.
The Devil on the Door (New York Magazine)