Set the wayback machine to the late 1970s and meet one of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s peers who went on to unexpected success as a DJ and creator of some the earliest Hip Hop hits. Matt Dike was a music obsessive who is considered one of the driving forces behind the Beastie Boys seminal album, Paul’s Boutique. He was also a friend of Basquiat’s and one-time assistant who ended up with a handful of his friend’s work, including the self-portrait Phillips is offering with a $9m low estimate.
Here’s a longer version of the tale from Phillips’s press shop:
Phillips is pleased to announce the sale of six works by Jean-Michel Basquiat from the Collection of the legendary hip hop producer Matt Dike. An acclaimed DJ and co-founder of the renowned West Coast label Delicious Vinyl, Matt Dike is widely celebrated as transforming the LA music scene within the course of a single decade through his involvement in such hits as Tone Loc’s Wild Thing, Young MC’s Bust A Move and the Beastie Boys’ groundbreaking album Paul’s Boutique. Over the course of his career, he developed an extraordinary friendship with Basquiat, acquiring several of his artworks. Two works from the collection will be offered in the New York Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art on 16 May, with four works on paper being featured in the Day Sale on 15 May. Prior to the exhibition in New York from 3-15 May, the works will be on view in Los Angeles from 9-11 April. Estimated at $9-12 million, Self-Portrait leads the group and is one of the greatest self-portraits by the artist to ever be offered at auction.
Scott Nussbaum, Phillips’ Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, New York, said, “This selection of works by Jean-Michel Basquiat presents a cross-section of important themes for the artist and includes the largest and most complex of the ground-breaking silhouette self-portraits Jean-Michel painted between 1982 and 1985. Showcasing the extraordinary legacy of Matt Dike, these works offer long overdue insights into the valued role he played in Basquiat’s life, as well as the way the city of Los Angeles provided the artist the freedom and inspiration he sought while grappling with the pressures of fame and success. We are thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase these important works of art, many of which have never been seen publicly.”
Having moved to Los Angeles from New York in 1980, Dike transformed the L.A. music scene and the reach of hip hop at large in just ten years. His adept ear, sampling skills, and encyclopedic knowledge of music made him an extraordinary club DJ and he quickly attracted an enthusiastic following for his unique sound. It was on the strength of Dike’s DJing that the impromptu parties he initiated in the mid-1980s coalesced into the notorious Power Tools club, which attracted the likes of Andy Warhol and David Bowie and featured an early West Coast performance from the Beastie Boys.
In 1987 Dike closed Power Tools and co-founded Delicious Vinyl with Michael Ross. Working from Dike’s apartment, the upstart label quickly made hip hop history as the young entrepreneurs’ first single, Tone Loc’s Wild Thing, became a radio hit. The grainy music video they produced with a budget of only $500 became an unexpected success, reaching a wider audience than they could have ever imagined. As the first of three multi-platinum singles produced by Delicious Vinyl, Wild Thing set the stage for the label’s quick rise. Championing artists from the streets, Ross and Dike were highly influential in not just proving hip hop’s pop-crossover potential, but also launching the careers of such artists as Young MC. Dike was also a key figure in the creation of the Beastie Boys’ seminal 1989 album Paul’s Boutique, which was recorded in Dike’s apartment and is widely considered a hip hop masterpiece.
The centerpiece of Dike’s remarkable collection is undoubtedly Basquiat’s Self-Portrait, 1982-1983, a work that not only is the most resolved self-portrait the artist created within its series, but one that also speaks of the intense bond Dike and Basquiat shared in life as in work. Dike first met Basquiat in the late 1970s at an NYU party, when the artist was still emblazoning the streets with his unique graffiti under the pseudonym SAMO; by the time they met again, he had been catapulted to unparalleled art world fame. They were reunited in 1982 when Basquiat travelled to Los Angeles for his first solo show at the Gagosian Gallery. Dike—then working at the gallery during the day and DJing at night— became Basquiat’s designated chauffeur and eventually his assistant, becoming intimately involved in one of the greatest innovations in the artist’s practice – the use of wood slat fencing material for his picture supports starting in late 1983.
It was during his stay in Los Angeles that Basquiat created Self-Portrait, a work that was executed on two found doors, with one depicting the artist himself and the other featuring a rich compendium of imagery and text in which Basquiat focuses on his sense of self at a key crossroads in his short career. The creation of the work was captured in progress on film by Tamra Davis, who married Mike D of the Beastie Boys and became Basquiat’s close friend. Davis made the footage public in 2010 with her documentary The Radiant Child, providing a rare glimpse into a work that, while mentioned anecdotally in literature, has remained unknown to the art word since its creation over three decades ago.
Self-Portrait firmly takes a prime position in the pantheon of self-portraits in Basquiat’s oeuvre, one that perhaps like none other is filled with self- reflection. Moreover, Basquiat’s act of painting is often compared to a process of exorcising his creative demons, epitomized in the present work vividly with the emblazoned words “To Repel Ghosts,” a phrase the artist would return to numerous times throughout his all-too-brief career. Such was the importance of these works to Matt Dike that he never loaned them for exhibition, nor considered parting with them during his lifetime.