Art at The Penthouse: Jean-Michel Basquiat by Richard Corman
From now until the end of June, Cad & The Dandy’s New York Penthouse will be exhibiting portraits of Jean-Michel Basquiat, taken by Richard Corman in 1984. A proliﬁc portrait photographer, Corman has captured subjects including Muhammad Ali, Ralph Lauren, Paul Newman, Madonna and Nelson Mandela in a career spanning four decades. His work has appeared in numerous publications including Vanity Fair, Vogue, Rolling Stone and Architectural Digest.
The exhibition, created in partnership with Manhattan restaurant and art gallery Frevo, depicts the late artist wearing an oversized herringbone jacket—a synergy between style, self-expression, and New York that we couldn’t resist. We sat down with Corman to discuss the shoot, working with Basquiat, and the power of clothing.
*This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
C&D: When and where were these photos taken?
RC: The shoot was in New York City, in 1984, at 57 Great Jones Street, a studio Andy Warhol had given to Jean-Michel, now a landmark building with a plaque detailing Basquiat’s time living there.
C&D: How did that herringbone jacket get involved?
RC: I shot it for L’Uomo Vogue, so style and fashion was a part of it. I was told to take the herringbone tweed jacket with me and to make sure he wore it. So, not only did he wear it, but he owned it. In the shoot, it became a part of him. You would never know that it was a prop, because it certainly never felt like a fashion shoot. It was a portrait of a complicated genius who was introverted, angry and extremely charismatic.
C&D: What was it like shooting Basquiat?
RC: When I walked into that studio the energy was so compelling. There must have been 30 young people there, smoking and drinking and painting with music permeating throughout the space. When I walked in, Jean-Michel was huddled in a corner in a very shy manner. I went up and introduced myself and asked if we could move to a quieter area, where I taped a sheet of grey seamless paper to the wall. I was intrigued to see what was behind his eyes. He was incredibly present for me and we were able to capture some iconic photographs.
C&D: I’m glad you brought the blazer up, because it feels like a remarkable part of the portraits.
RC: All the other clothes he wore were his, and when we put the blazer on it just seemed right! The reason I wanted to put these photographs in Cad & The Dandy’s new space is because I liked the vibe, but also because you guys are artists and artisans too, creating bespoke suits with the most beautiful fabrics in the world and, like me, are incredibly passionate about what you do.
C&D: Why do you think that blazer had such presence in the series?
RC: Because he just owned it for that hour or two, he put it on, and he was almost unaware that he had it on; it just became a part of him. It was also because he was so unique. You didn’t know if he was happy or sad or angry. He was introspective. It became kind of a shell, I almost felt it protected him.
He allowed himself to become so vulnerable in these photographs… There wasn’t a lot said during the shoot but there was a lot that I felt he was able to share with me in a very quiet, reﬂective manner.
C&D: What was the context of his career at the time?
RC: This was ’84, he died in 1988 when he was 28, so I’m assuming he’s 24. Warhol had been promoting him and engaging with him artistically, and I think on both a business and emotional level it was daunting for Jean-Michel. He certainly wasn’t selling paintings for 100 million dollars as he is today, but he was somebody to be reckoned with… There are a handful of people I’ve had the opportunity to photograph and spend a little bit of time with that you just knew were destined for greatness.
C&D: What makes the series relevant today?
RC: He was always relevant, but these portraits feel as if this is someone who could walk into a room emanating a very cool, artistic vibe. It’s exciting to have launched the book, “BASQUIAT – A Portrait” in 2018 and exciting to share this collection now with Cad & The Dandy.
C&D: How do you think the portraits factor into the space?
RC: I think these images really stand on their own. Savile Row tailoring is something you think of as being quite conservative, and yet I know that a lot of those artisans have designed classic menswear using the ﬁnest and at times the most outrageous fabrics! I think these photographs have a youthful, thoughtful edge which is relevant to Cad & The Dandy, and Jean-Michel, and hopefully to myself.
All prints are available to purchase. Prices and further details can be found via the catalogue below.
VIEW THE CATALOGUE
An exhibition of over 200 of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s never-before-seen artworks, curated by his family, is currently showing in New York. Full details can be found here.