Warhol, Basquiat and the casual birth of the selfie

Lifestyle

Warhol, Basquiat and the casual birth of the selfie

Andy Warhol’s pics of himself and Jean-Michel Basquiat prove his prophetic insight into social media

Zola Zingithwa


Andy Warhol is famous for documenting his life, with The Guardian reporting that this amounts to more than 130,000 photographs.
The publication says the artist is hardly given recognition for being a pioneer of the self-voyeurism that has overtaken social media. Already in the 1980s he was capturing the mundane and exciting everyday moments with which individuals everywhere now flood social media feeds.
Warhol’s obsession with capturing every moment of his life meant that he also had an insight into lives of other famous faces. One was his close friend Jean-Michel Basquiat. The two became close when Warhol was already a famous artist and Basquiat an upcoming one.
Their intertwined life stories are revealed in images taken by Warhol in the book Warhol on Basquiat: The Iconic Relationship Told in Andy Warhol’s Words and Pictures. Produced in collaboration between The Andy Warhol Foundation and Jean-Michel Basquiat’s estate, the book is compiled by Michael Dayton Hermann and published by Taschen.
The book visually portrays their friendship through Warhol’s lens. Its blurb explains that it fuses “excerpts from Andy Warhol Diaries, rarely seen archival material, and examples of their collaborative artworks”.
In a diary entry, according to The Guardian, Warhol even muses about knowing Basquiat as a kid named “Samo” who used to sit on a Greenwich Village sidewalk, painting T-shirts, and Warhol would give him $10. In another, he writes about Basquiat talking about wanting to kill himself and how Warhol simply laughed off the moment while he captured it on film.
From capturing a smiling Basquiat in 1983 as he has his nails done, or while he works, to showing the parties the two attended with the who’s who of the 1980s New York party scene, the images bring to light an artist who knew, before the age of social media and selfies, that self-portrayal was the future of making a living.

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