In Jean-Michel Basquiat’s drawing “The Origin of Cotton,” a piece of cotton, a symbol for slavery as it was harvested in the Deep South, sits below ‘buttered popcorn,’ which, for Basquiat, was representative of American hegemony. Together they give insight to Basquiat’s struggle with his identity as an African American and the burden of his ancestral history. The seemingly simple symbol of cotton was so loaded with personal relevance that the artist featured it regularly in his drawings, graffiti tags, and even his music: one of Basquiat’s band Gray’s most well regarded songs was also titled “The Origin of Cotton.”

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Additional Information

Galeries Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich
Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York
Twiga Collection, New York
Marcel Sitscoske Gallery, San Francisco
Private Collection
Phillips New York, Friday, May 17, 2013
Private Collection, La Jolla

No apparent condition issues.
Frame: 31 x 25 x 1 in (78.74 x 63.5 x 2.54 cm)

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About Jean-Michel Basquiat

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Jean-Michel Basquiat (American, 1960-1988) was an artist internationally renowned for his paintings, prints, and texts. Having been a Junior Member of the Brooklyn Museum since the age of six, Basquiat turned to graffiti, poetry and music as a teenager. By his early 20s, he was recognized as one of the most important artists of his generation, and was shown on the cover of The New York Times Magazine in 1985 for the feature "New Art, New Money: The Marketing of an American Artist." His career was tragically cut short after a heroin overdose in 1988.

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Untitled (Origin of Cotton), 1981
Lot Number 4
Oil stick on paper
24 x 17.75 in (60.96 x 45.09 cm)
Signed and dated on verso

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Jean-Michel Basquiat
Untitled (Origin of Cotton)
  • Dimensions
    24 x 17.75 in (60.96 x 45.09 cm)