Derek Blasberg is a writer, editor, and New York Times best-selling author. In addition to being the Executive Editor of Gagosian Quarterly, he is the Head of Fashion and Beauty for YouTube. He has been with Gagosian since 2014.
This year, Jean-Michel Basquiat set the record for the highest-selling American artist when Untitled, a work from 1982, sold for $110.5 million at Sotheby’s. The work of art you see here, Untitled (L.A. Painting), debuted the same year at the former Gagosian Gallery on N. Almont Drive as part of the exhibition Jean-Michel Basquiat: Paintings. It was the first time Basquiat had exhibited in Los Angeles and his second solo show ever. The work is a masterpiece and has many of the hallmarks that we’ve come to associate with his work: the crown, the bird, the coin, the skull. With its underlayers of golden yellows (like sand or sun) overcome by soft blues (tones of the ocean), this panoramic painting, the largest of the twelve that were included in that landmark show, is marked by the geography of its inception: seeing it is like looking out at the Pacific from the shore. This California ambiance is worth noting.
Given the mythical relationship between the artist and New York City, Basquiat’s West Coast outings have often been overlooked, but with two additional shows after the first (one in 1983, the other in 1986) and many trips in between—often staying at Larry Gagosian’s U-shaped house in Venice Beach—he made Los Angeles an important second home during crucially industrious years of his life.