Basquiat’s ‘Griots’ Painting, Sabado por la Noche, to Lead Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Sale in London

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Sabado por la Noche (Saturday Night) is going to lead Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction in London on 25 June, expected to fetch £7.5m-11m (US$9.6m-14m). This painting is a synthesis of the artist's strong interest in African ancestry and American Art.

Created by Jean-Michael Basquiat in 1984, Sabado por la Noche (Saturday Night) is a vibrant and multi-layered work that represents an important period in Jean-Michael Basquiat’s career. Basquiat had moved into a loft space owned by Andy Warhol in August 1983. While he was working on collaborative works in silkscreen and paint with Warhol over the following two years, Basquiat brought greater material richness and thematic complexity into his own work. 1984 also saw Basquiat’s first solo museum show, which debuted at the Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, before travelling to London’s Institute of Contemporary Art. 

A closeup of Sabado por la Noche (Saturday Night)

The composition of Sabado por la Noche (Saturday Night) is dominated by two human heads, and this ‘griot’ character can also be found in several of Basquiat’s major works from the same year: Gold Griot, Grillo and Flexible.


Gold Griot

Jean-Michael Basquiat and Flexible (behind)

In West Africa, a griot is a storyteller or poet who plays a central role in his community’s oral tradition, a role that Basquiat found himself echoing to. Basquiat’s griots show the influence of idols, bearing the same distinctive elliptical eyes.

West Africa (Senegal) Dakar — native griot with his guitar

A third mask-like head, submerged in pink to the lower left, dreams forth a procession of female forms amid an aura of red, green and gold - the colours of the Pan-African flag. Other elements in the painting have a more contemporary Pop flavour, such as a grinning, cartoonish wolf, and a silkscreened comic-strip boxing scene (‘BIP!’)

Having a half-Haitian, half-Puerto Rican ancestry, Basquiat is equally interested in black history and modern painting and this is reflected in his present work here. The present work’s Spanish title tells part of the story. Basquiat grew up in a multilingual household and was fluent in Spanish, French and English. The griots, awash in gestural swathes of Abstract Expressionist colour, are a vivid instance of ‘black history’ meeting ‘modern painting’.

Basquiat added some Pop Art elements into the painting

Basquiat added some Pop Art elements into the painting

One of the notable features of Basquiat’s works is his repeated use of anatomical imagery - skeletons, musculature, and internal organs. It coincides with the tendency in his work to turn things inside out and dissolve the distinction between private spaces and public places. He made his inner thoughts public in graffiti-like litanies of works of other bursts of expression.

His series of ‘griots’ painting is perhaps his self-exploration process in which he saw himself in the griot’s guise, performing an anatomy of himself as a painter-troubadour, a storyteller of many-layered stories from his internal and external worlds.


Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988). Sabado por la Noche (Saturday Night)

Lot no.: 6
Executed in: 1984
Size: 195.6 x 223.5cm

  • Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich / Mary Boone, New York.
  • Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris.
  • Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris.
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1993.

Estimate: £7,500,000-£11,000,000

Jean Dubuffet (1901-1985). Cérémonie (Ceremony)

Lot no.: 16
Painted in November 1961
Size: 164.7 x 220cm

  • Galerie Daniel Cordier, Paris.
  • Collection of P. Marinotti, Milan.
  • Acquavella Galleries, New York.
  • Private Collection, Paris.
  • Galerie Francoise Tournie, Paris.
  • Raymond Vuilliez, Lyon.
  • Ruth and Jack Wexler (acquired from the above in 1986) and thence by descent.
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2012.

Estimate: £7,000,000-10,000,000

Francis Bacon (1909-1992). 'Man at a Washbasin'

Lot no.: 22
Painted circa 1954
Size: 152 x 116cm

  • Collection of the Artist.
  • Private Collection, UK (acquired from the above in 1992).
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2003.

Estimate: £5,000,000-7,000,000

Auction details

Auction house: Christie’s London
Sale: Post-War and Contemporary Art Evening Auction
Date: 25 June 2019|7pm