Basquiat’s ‘Sam F’ Acquired by Dallas Museum of Art

by Christopher Blay June 26, 2021
Jean-Michel Basquiat "Sam F, 1985," Oil on door

Jean-Michel Basquiat “Sam F,” 1985. Oil on door, 80 × 36 in. Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Samuel N. and Helga A. Feldman

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.

Jean-Michel Basquiat at the opening of Primitivism in 20th Century Art, 1985,

Jean-Michel Basquiat at the opening of Primitivism in 20th Century Art, 1985, photo by Andy Hanson, courtesy of Dallas Museum of Art.

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.”

Dallas Collects Jean-Michel Basquiat, installation, January 31-March 28, 1993,

“Dallas Collects Jean-Michel Basquiat,” installation, January 31-March 28, 1993, courtesy of Dallas Museum of Art

For more on the Dallas Museum of Art, please go here.


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.


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sam February 18, 2023 - 11:39

Sam F is a terrible painting. Executed during Basquiat’s low point, 1985. I say low point because he was over producing unresolved paintings and getting away with it. But it marked the end of that period as well. 1986 would see the artist retreat from public view as well as leave all his US based galleries and his main European representation, Bruno Bischofberger. Sam F is a commissioned work done under pressure and lacks any substance. Basquiat was on auto pilot by this time. The work he would produce in late 1986 would be some of his best works leading to Pegasus (1987) and other works on paper mounted on fabric.

S B March 23, 2024 - 13:55

You know so little of the reason this painting was made. You have no idea the connection the artist had with Sam. JMB loved Sam and Helga. The painting exists because he wanted to paint Sam. Basquiat and Sam shared a common interest in music and there is a playlist painted on the work of things they heard together in the Feldman home. HHH in the painting means “Helga’s Happy Home” and the paint was something he scrounged in the basement of the Goldcrest building and the door was Sam and Helga’s door that they had in site storage from a recent remodel on their unit. He felt the muse and wanted to make the painting. I don’t know why you think you know about this painting – but I knew Helga personally and understood the importance of a piece so personal and part of Dallas at a time Dallas wasn’t a cultural destination. The Feldman’s owned many works by JMB and he stayed with them on more than one occasion. You mistake sincerity for something sinister or lazy. Maybe, next time – you can apply your art knowledge to the actual work and know the context without jumping to conclusions.


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