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1800 Tequila limited edition series features 6 works by Jean-Michel Basquiat

The artist Jean Michel Basquiat is featured in 1800 Tequila's "Essential Artist" series
The artist Jean Michel Basquiat is featured in 1800 Tequila's "Essential Artist" series
Linda Covello

An untitled work on paper, by the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, sold at Sotheby's Contemporary Art Day Auction on May 15th for $1,025,000. The graphite, oil stick, acrylic and sticker work was estimated to sell for $600,000 - $800,000. That same day at Phillips' Contemporary Art Afternoon Auction on Park Avenue, "Zenith", a collaboration between Basquiat and Andy Warhol, that was estimated to sell for $10,000,000 - $15,000,000, sold for $11,365,000. Those are very respectable figures for an artist whose career began as a graffiti artist on the streets of downtown Manhattan in the late 1970s. Basquiat, a high school dropout at 17, was banished from his home by his father and the artist began a lifestyle that included stints on the streets and sofa surfing at the homes of friends. He supported himself during those early years by selling t-shirts and homemade postcards. Last May 15th, Basquiat's 1982 work, "Dustheads", sold at Christies for a record breaking $48.8 million. The artist died in 1988 of a heroin overdose

3 of a series of 1800 Tequila's Jean-Michel Basquiat limited edition bottles
Linda Covello Photography

. This month, 1800 Tequila celebrates the life and work of Jean-Michel Basquiat with its limited-edition release of six bottles featuring six different works from the artist's oeuvre. The latest, and sixth in a series of 1800 Tequila's "Essential Artist" series, the bottles will appear at liquor stores later this month and be available until they sell out. The reproduction quality of the images is vivid and striking and simply presented on the iconic 1800 Silver Tequila bottle. A small pamphlet around the neck describes each work, and a brief bio of the artist is printed on the side of the bottle. This is hands-down a desirable collector's item for the lover of fine tequila as well as works of contemporary art.

1800 tequila debuted the collaboration with the artist's estate at a private preview of the series at a gallery on Madison Avenue on May 1st. A few original Basquiat works were available for private viewing, and 1800 Tequila's signature cocktails were served along with sweet concoctions sent up from La Maison du Chocolat, the legendary Parisian luxury chocolatier.

In his 2010 book, "Basquiat", Marc Mayer, director of the National Gallery of Canada wrote of the artist: "Basquiat speaks articulately while dodging the full impact of clarity like a matador. We can read his pictures without strenuous effort—the words, the images, the colors and the construction—but we cannot quite fathom the point they belabor. Keeping us in this state of half-knowing, of mystery-within-familiarity, had been the core technique of his brand of communication since his adolescent days as the graffiti poet SAMO. To enjoy them, we are not meant to analyze the pictures too carefully. Quantifying the encyclopedic breadth of his research certainly results in an interesting inventory, but the sum cannot adequately explain his pictures, which requires an effort outside the purview of iconography ... he painted a calculated incoherence, calibrating the mystery of what such apparently meaning-laden pictures might ultimately mean."

The artist, writer and filmmaker, Michael Holman, who was a founding member, along with Nick Taylor, Vincent Gallo, Shannon Dawson and Wayne Clifford, of Basquiat's noise rock band "Gray", filmed Basquiat for his short, "Pesceador©". "Pesceador©" was created in 2010 by Holman as a dedication to his friend and former band mate. The super 8 on video film is 5 minutes and 26 seconds in duration, and is made up primarily of Holman's archival footage, shot in the early 1980s, all in New York City. The music is "Drum Mode", a 1981 track by Gray, made specifically for the soundtrack to the film "Downtown 81", produced by Glenn O'Brien and Maripol. The film was a featured element of the Basquiat Retrospective which began at the Beyeler Museum in Basel, Switzerland, and finished up at the Musee d'art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in January, 2011. Gray will be re-releasing their 2011 album, "Shades of..." on vinyl this fall, with bonus features that will include reprinted flyers and posters designed by Basquiat, a book with text and interviews, and a video. The vinyl will include remixes of songs by hit-making producers such as Todd Rundgren, Hank Shocklee (Public Enemy), Rich Nice (Nas, Jay Z, 50 Cent) and Deantoni Parks (John Cale (drums) Sade (drums)).

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