MOCA Said "No Thanks!" to This Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Hollywood Africans, 1983. Whitney Museum of American Art, gift of Douglas S. Cramer. (c) The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat

A Vanity Fair piece on Gagosian's Basquiat show revives a tale about TV executive Douglas Cramer and Jean-Michel Basquiat's Hollywood Africans. According to journalist Nate Freeman, Cramer offered the Basquiat painting to both MOCA and LACMA about 1984. Neither institution was interested. The collector instead donated Hollywood Africans to the Whitney, where it is now the most frequently requested loan of the entire collection.

The Smithsonian's oral history of Cramer (2013) gives a different and somewhat contradictory version of the story. In Cramer's own words,

I've always given to museums a lot, and the first big picture that I offered to MOCA he [curator Paul Schimmel] turned down. It was an early Jean-Michel Basquiat, Hollywood [Africans], but he turned it down because I'd already offered it to MoMA and they turned it down, interestingly enough; not quite sure they were ready for Basquiat. And finally, after Paul turned it down—he said, "I'm not going to take rejects from MoMA"—the Whitney took it. And it's now the star of their collection and one of the great Basquiats. 

Cramer and Schimmel often clashed. But Cramer appears to be confused about the chronology. MOCA hired Schimmel in 1990. Thus Hollywood Africans had already been rejected and regifted before Schimmel was at MOCA.  

In any case, MOCA must have quickly changed its mind about Basquiat. In 1985 MOCA accepted two lesser Basquiat paintings from the Barry Lowen collection. This was followed by the gift of a superior painting, Six Crimee, from Scott D.F. Spiegel in 1991 (under Schimmel's tenure as chief curator). 

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Six Crimee, 1982. MOCA, the Scott D.F. Siegel Collection


I freely admit that Basquiat is beyond the ken of this art lover.
Anonymous said…
^^^His reputation and market is propped up by collectors.

Even the "authentic" ones are "counterfeit".

--- J. Garcin

Anonymous said…
LACMA still doesn't have a Basquiat to this day