Anatomy of Passion
Kira Sapgir

The parallel retrospectives of Egon Schiele and Jean-Michel Basquiat at Fondation Louis Vuitton feature the artists’ personal and revealing self-portraits. In Schiele's “Self-portrait with Peacock Waistcoat” (1911), the artist is depicted with a wry smile, a contemptuous look from under half-closed eyelids under arrogantly raised eyebrows. In Basquiat’s “Self-portrait” (1984), the man on the canvas does not smile, but grins like a wild untamed beast. Strangely, in these self-portraits the facial features of the two artists are similar. Both have a pointed face, crazed hair, and a mocking smile.

But is this a reason to bring together two of the 20th century’s most prominent artists, separated by time and space, in the Frank Gary's glass crystal? Each viewer decides for himself. Egon Schiele lived in the Europe of the 1920s; Jean Michel Basquiat—in the America of the 1980s. While the former suffered from existential melancholy, the latter passion- ately loved life. Both conquered the artistic Olympus in only 10 years and died at the age of 28. Both became iconic fig- ures in the art world, “icons” with their own styles. The curator Dieter Buchhart had no intention to compare their work, each of the shows is self-sufficient: two different exhibition posters, entrances, and hashtags; at the Schiele show there are autumn-toned walls, reminding of the museum space, and the Basquiat exhibi- tion is a white cube—a symbol of the contemporary gallery. Although the shows can be viewed separately, on different days and at different time, experienced one after another, the expressive manners of both the Brooklyn prodigy and the Viennese rebel will evoke powerful emotions in the most passionless spectator.

DI # 6-2018

December 13, 2018