Previously hidden images have emerged in a Basquiat painting

3 January 2019

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.


The UV-assisted image on the right of this diptych shows the previously unseen arrow poking between the ‘E’ and the ‘P’ of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1981 painting Untitled

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Josh Baines

Josh Baines joined It's Nice That from July 2018 to July 2019 as News Editor, covering new high-profile projects, awards announcements, and everything else in between.

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