“NEPTUNE’S PLACE” EARLY WORKS of JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT

SAMO was a pair of young rebellious teens living in Brooklyn: SAMO was the name used by Jean-Michel Basquiat and Al Diaz.

NEPTUNE refers to their drug dealer, Lonnie Lichtenberg, a young man living on the Lower East Side, whose apartment was a place to buy drugs and hang out. Lonnie was also a personal friend, whom Basquiat nicknamed King of the “C” (C for cocaine) or “Neptune.” Over the course of their friendship, Lonnie obtained many works from Basquiat; trades, exchanges, probably even some gifts, though these transactions were probably for small amounts of drugs and could never accommodate Basquiat’s actual daily habit. Though these works were often drug fueled, or used in drug transactions, Basquiat used these works in his pursuit of fame. His goal was to be recognized, to be rich along with being famous. He achieved that dream, but at a huge cost.

As Lonnie’s drug dealing was compounded by his own drug abuse, he sold many of the Basquiat works in his possession, occasionally even traded them for his own drug needs, or he just left them in his apartment. (Trading art for food, shelter, and security is an age-old practice and should not come as a surprise to anyone, since artists have to invent ways to stay alive.)

The artwork represents the works of a very young, nonetheless ambitious artist, all produced over a span of about three years, between 1979 and into 1982 before Basquiat was “Basquiat,” when he was still signing his own work as SAMO. The story is a compelling one with many interesting characters, appealing to the binge watching, 24/7 “always-on”, celebrity obsessed audience of contemporary society because Basquiat was that rare species of poet, hustler, lover, creative powerhouse who followed no rules yet eager to learn and transform everything into his own brand of art made on his own terms and surviving because of it.

CROSS SECTION OF GENERATIONS:

Basquiat lived in the pre AIDS world, the world of the early Reagan years the trickle down economy, a world before fax machine, pre internet and mobile phones, now ubiquitous parts of our lives. Niche, Affluent – Basquiat’s meteoric rise came at a time when the art world was mostly white male dominated.

MULTI-CULTURAL:

Basquiat (of Haitian & Puerto Rican decent) & Al DIAZ tap into diverse consumer groups, who’ll be thrilled to learn about and/or discover an art icon.Pop Culture – Basquiats legendary status has remained relevant and even escalated due in some measure to this generation’s Brooklyn born icon, Jay-Z repeatedly mentioning Basquiat in his lyrics. Proudly boasting of his own Basquiat collection and displaying them in his office.

COUNTER CULTURE:

Crowns symbolizing the local gang, the “Latin Kings” found their way into many of Basquiat’s later works. The presence of the crowns asks us: isn’t he also, in some way, a Latin King?