Here’s a fun start to a new creative year: an American art conservator has alleged that one of the 20th century’s most influential and adored artists, Jean-Michel Basquiat, filled his canvases with secret drawings.
Emily Macdonald-Korth claims that during what Artnet describes as a “routine forensic job” back in December 2018, she came across the hidden images in a 1981 painting by the artist.
When Emily hovered over the painting with a handheld UV torch — a tool that she usually deploys in such jobs to look for signs that the artwork in review has undergone repair work — she unearthed a pair of hitherto unseen arrows “drawn in what looked like black-light crayon,” which are, Artnet reports, “virtually identical to other arrows drawn visibly on the canvas with red and black oil sticks.” Talking to Artnet, Emily says, “He [Basquiat] must have been playing with a UV flashlight and thought, ‘this is cool.’ It really relates to his use of erasure.”
The discovery isn’t the first time that Basquiat’s been revealed to have planted under-the-surface imagery into one of his typically bold pieces of work. Orange Sports Figure, from 1982, was also shown to be daubed in dashes of invisible ink. In that instance, a team at Sotheby’s found Basquiat’s signature nestled in the bottom right corner of the painting.
If you happen to be lucky enough to own a Basquiat — and hey, who doesn’t have one of the downtown giant’s paintings Blu Tack’ed to the living room wall — Emily has some advice: hop over to Amazon and pick up a long-wave UV flashlight, wave it over your artwork and look out for a (potential) invisibly inked surprise.
It’s Nice That (obviously) cannot guarantee that Basquiat did this with every painting of course, so don’t blame us if you’re left a little disappointed.