The Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) will ring in the Independence Day holiday by putting its newest acquisition on view, beginning July 4. Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Sam F (1985) is the first work by the artist to enter the DMA’s collection, and was gifted to the museum by the late Samuel and Helga Feldman.
Samuel Feldman is the “Sam F” of the painting’s title, and the painting was made by the 24-year-old Basquiat when he visited Dallas in 1985 at the invitation of contemporary art consultant Marcia May and her husband Alan to for the exhibition Primitivism in 20th Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern, organized by the Museum of Modern Art. The artist stayed at the May residence for several weeks and regularly visited with the Feldmans, who lived in the same apartment complex. Basquiat’s painting in oil was created on a door from the apartment complex.
Sam F was exhibited in 1993 as part of Dallas Collects Jean-Michel Basquiat, less than five years after the artist’s death on August 12, 1988. The show featured 16 other works by Basquiat from private collections in Dallas. Sam F will be on view through February 2022 on the DMA’s main concourse.
“We are honored to have this supremely important artist represented in our collection by a work that has such a special connection to our city and our museum,” states Dr. Agustín Arteaga, the DMA’s Director. “As a work of art, the painting is an excellent example of Basquiat’s iconic style. As a treasured object, its history is a testament to the deep generosity and support of Dallas patrons for contemporary artists and the city’s arts institutions. As it is a beautiful new acquisition, we are thrilled to share it with our community almost as quickly as we received it.”
“Sam F is a landmark gift for the DMA,” adds Dr. Anna Katherine Brodbeck, Senior Curator of Contemporary Art. “The first work of art to enter the collection by the world-renowned artist, it embodies Basquiat’s uncanny ability to meld art history, pop culture, and empathy for the human subject. This painting fills a significant gap in our collection and allows us the opportunity to share with audiences the groundbreaking contributions of Black and Latinx artists to the art world in the 1980s.”
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Jean-Michel Basquiat (b. Brooklyn, NY, 1960; d. New York, NY, 1988), one of the most important and celebrated American painters of the 1980s, was known for his frenetic portraits and graffiti-tagged scenes that seamlessly incorporated references to Black popular culture, canonic art history and literature, and sociocultural critique. Of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent, Basquiat gained notoriety in the late 1970s for the cryptic aphorisms and phrases he left on the walls of Manhattan with his collaborator Al Diaz under the tagged pseudonym SAMO. In 1981, he turned to more traditional modes of painting, working on salvaged materials, canvas, and paper to merge the graphic lexicon of graffiti with art historical conventions of portraiture and still life.