This week several blogs on “Figuration Libre” . It is the french counterpart of the mouvement which was led by haring, Scharf and Basquiat in the US, b ut with a difference, because , in my opinion, The Europeans? French were influenced by comis art from the Sixties and Seventies. The US artist did not have this legacy but invented a kind of street art on their own. Artistically more important but in many cases less pleasing to the eye.
Figuration Libre (“Free Figuration”) is a French art movement which began in the 1980s. It is the French equivalent of Bad Painting and Neo-expressionism in America and Europe, Junge Wilde in Germany and Transvanguardia in Italy. Arists in the movement typically incorporate elements of comic book art and graffiti into their work. They use bright colors and exaggerated, caricature-like figures.
The group was formed in 1981 by Robert Combas, Remi Blanchard, François Boisrond and Hervé Di Rosa. The term ‘Figuration Libre’ was coined by Fluxus artist Ben Vautier. Other figures include Richard Di Rosa and Louis Jammes. Between 1982 and 1985, these artists exhibited alongside their American counterparts Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Kenny Scharf in New York City, London, Pittsburgh and Paris.
Figuration Libre (Free Figuration) can be translated as “Free Style”.
Of course there is a reason to devote these blogs to Figuration Libre. I have acquired a small collection of important books by these artists which is now for sale at www.ftn-books.com
Of course James Brown deserves a blog. It is one of those artists who has become important for us Europeans since he has had exhibitions in the Netherlands ( Livingstone gallery ao) and Belgium in the last few decades in which we could see his paintings . Some of these catalogues are available at http://www.ftn-books.com. What follows now is the information you can find on Brown on Wikipedia.
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Born in Los Angeles, California, he received at BFA from Immaculate Heart College, Hollywood. He then spent years in Paris, and attended the Ecole Superieure des Beaux Arts, Paris, France. He rebelled against the classical training there, which he considered irrelevant, but stayed as he wanted to stay in Paris. Tours of Europe seeing renaissance and especially medieval painting of Italy influenced his work. During the 1980s, his paintings, mixing the modernist tradition of painterly application and adherence to the picture surface with clear influences from tribal art. In the early 1980s he began exhibiting in New York, and in this decade this work became a hit in the galleries and art press, sharing a look with the Bad Painting and young neo-expressionism of the East Village painters of the time. On 12 September 1987 he married Alexandra Condon, who was studying History of Art at NYU at the time. They had known each other for little more than ten years. Despite some time on the East and West coast of New York, he continued to live in Paris. With the fading of the East Village art scene he had increasingly shown in European galleries, where his work was now seen in the context of a post-war European modernism in the tradition of Jean Dubuffet. James and Alexandra had their first child, Degenhart Maria Grey Brown, on 24 September 1989 in New York. In 1991 their second boy, Cosmas And Damian Maria Todosantos Brown, was born on 6 June in Paris. On 16 April 1993, their daughter was born, Dagmar Maria Jane Brown, in New York. In 1995 he moved out to the valley of Oaxaca (Mexico) with his family, where they lived in a hacienda for nine years. During that time, James Brown continued exhibiting in Europe, the United States and Mexico. He and his wife collaborated with various artists, making rugs in a village in the mountains of Oaxaca. The rugs were made in the traditional Mexican fashion, weaved by hand on large wooden frames. Jamaes and Alexandra then decided to start making books with artists, so they started Cape Diem Press. Like the rugs, these books are printed in Oaxaca using old-fashioned and traditional methods. The books are printed in limited editions, and Carpe Diem Press continues to collaborate with artists. In 2004, they moved to the city of Mérida, in the Yucatán. Since then James Brown has been spending much time in Europe, exhibiting his work in France, Germany, Italy and Holland. He has been working mostly in Paris.
His work has taken on several styles over the years, but maintains a hand-made look combining concerns of the modernist tradition with motifs and spiritual interests from tribal art. Much of his work is a non-realistic but contains depictions or signs of recognizable faces or objects. More recently he has done more in an abstract mode. However, the line between representation and abstraction is often a difficult one in his work, such as his more recent “Firmament Series” – abstract canvases that can also be read as referring to constellations or stars, or groups of rocks. Besides paintings Brown has also produced sculptures and series of prints at various points in his career, and in the 1990s started to heavily utilize collage. Drawing and other unique works on paper have been important to his artistic development and production. In an Artforum review of a 25-year retrospective, Martha Schwendener noted “The works range from abstract gouaches to biomorphic and figurative watercolors to collages that update the synthetic Cubist experiments of Picasso and Braque.
This is the exhibituion i remember most of all the exhibitions we visited during the last decade. It was a “one of a kind” event, which will never be repeated at such a scale. The exhibition covered over 100 Basquiat paintings and certainly not the smallest of them all. The entire FONDATION BEYELER ( except the Giacometti/Monet room) was devoted to one of the greatest of all painters from the 20th Century. At the time i had the foresight to take some extra Beyeler publicity folders with me and now i have decided to sell 3 of those to collectors. For this original publicity folder please take a look at www.ftn-books.com
For me Hélène Delprat is the french equivalent of Jean-Michel Basquiat. She has the same free approach to what a good painting is as basquiat had and with this perspective on painting she has developed a style of her own. recognizable and appealing to many, but certainly not to all. I like what she does and beside the publications which are available at www.ftn-books.com, i still have a wish to one day acquire a drawing by Delprat. Ther were several editions done by galerie Ameght in the eighties and nineties, but recent works are harder to find by the year. Here is Delprat interviewed at her exhibition at Caen:
This blog is how i experience books and art and what i read about them and this is certainly an article i want to share with you. The guardian did an excellent article on Basquiat and his Fahion style/ A style which looks random , but was a well thought out way of dressing… Hooray for the Guardian. Here is the article and do not forget that www.ftn-books.com has some nice titles on Jean-Michel Basquiat.
There’s an image of Jean-Michel Basquiat on the cover of the New York Times magazine from 1985. The photo is by Lizzie Himmel; the headline New Art, New Money. The artist, wearing a dark Giorgio Armani suit, white shirt and tie, leans back in a chair, one bare foot on the floor, the other up on a chair. The combination of the suit and the bare feet is typical of the way Basquiat defined his own image; always with an unconventional bent.
I’ve obsessed over his style when standing in front of Hollywood Africans, a 1983 work from a series where the images relate to stereotypes of African Americans in the entertainment business. It is a banger of a painting and will form part of Basquiat: Boom for Real, a retrospective opening at the Barbican in London this month.
I have a longstanding interest in the way artists dress, from Picasso to Hockney, Georgia O’Keeffe to Robert Rauschenberg, and I think their wardrobes exert as powerful an influence on mainstream fashion as those of any rock or Hollywood stars. These artists carved out instantly recognisable uniforms: clothes that symbolise the same singular point of view as their greatest works, usually with the sense of complete ease that is the holy grail of true style.
Basquiat’s wardrobe was distinctive, whether he was in mismatched blazer and trousers with striped shirt and clashing tie, or patterned shirt with a leather jacket pushed off his shoulders. He was perhaps most recognisable in his paint-splattered Armani suits. “I loved the fact that he chose to wear Armani. And loved even more that he painted in my suits,” Giorgio Armani says. “I design clothes to be worn, for people to live in, and he certainly did!”
In many ways, this bricolage approach to clothing is akin to the way he created his art. “His work was a mysterious combination of elements – text and colour, historical reference, abstraction and figurative techniques,” Armani says. “In his life, he also mashed up creative activities – he was a graffiti artist, a musician, an actor, a maker of great artworks. This eclecticism made him a mysterious and unconventional man. That mix made him stand out.”
“He was an incredibly stylish artist,” says Barbican curator Eleanor Nairne. “He was very playful about the performative aspects of identity.” He was also aware of the “renewed fixation on celebrity” that coincided with the art boom of the 80s, particularly in New York. He famously appeared in Blondie’s Rapture video, dated Madonna and befriended Andy Warhol.
Cathleen McGuigan, who wrote that 1985 New York Times feature, recounts Basquiat at the hip Manhattan hangout Mr Chow’s, drinking kir royal and chatting to Keith Haring while Warhol dined with Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran nearby. “He attracted the attention of Warhol and Bowie, so was endorsed by those who had already achieved that rare style-icon status,” Armani says. “And he had a very unique look – he had hair as distinctive as Warhol’s and wore suits in a way as stylish and relaxed as Bowie.”
Basquiat went on to model in a 1987 Comme des Garçons show wearing a pale blue suit, black buckle sandals, white shirt and white bow tie. Robert Johnston, style director at British GQ, describes Basquiat’s style as “a work of art in itself” and adds: “While meaning no disrespect to his talent, it is hard to imagine he would have taken New York so much by storm if he’d looked more like Francis Bacon.”
Basquiat’s influence on menswear is still felt today. While other icons have referenced his style – Kanye West sported a T-shirt bearing his portrait, Frank Ocean namechecked him in lyrics by Jay-Z, who dressed as him for a Halloween party – there is a more direct effect on fashion. There have been collaborations, via his estate, with the likes of Reebok and Supreme. There’s a photo of Basquiat wearing an Adidas T-shirt with a pinstripe suit which is a template for how the younger generation approach the idea of tailoring. At the S/S 18 shows in Milan, wonky ties with suiting at Marni made me jot down “Basquiat” in my notebook. And with the Barbican show his influence will spread. “The way Basquiat mixed classic tailoring with a downtown nonchalance fits the mood in menswear,” says Jason Hughes, fashion editor of Wallpaper*. “A refined suit worn with an unironed shirt, skewwhiff tie and beaten-up sneakers. The fact that he painted in those suits feels slightly anarchic and nonconformist. I want to wear a suit like that.”
This article appears in the autumn/winter 2017 edition of The Fashion, the Guardian and the Observer’s biannual fashion supplement
Yesterday i participated in an auction in which around 15 lots by Anton Heyboer were offered. Some of them were sold but most of them were “unsold” /held up and prices stayed all below their estimates. During the auction the auctioneer urged her audience to go to the Anton Heyboer exhibition in the Gemeentemuseum and since after my lunch i had a spare half hour, i stopped at the museum and visited the Heyboer exhibition. The museum has a long history with Heyboer , because in his early years as a curator for the Museum , Hans Locher organized exhibitions on Heyboer and visited him frequently in his studio in Den Ilp, resulting in purchases and the start of a brilliant Heyboer collection. Later on Heyboer’s works became less and less important . This is the time when he started as a more commercial artist and sold his works across the street in Den Ilp, in a gallery run by his 5th wife.
But yesterday when i visited the exhibition in the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag ( Heyboer is on show until the 4th of February 2018) i was overwhelmed by the quality of its works from the sixties and seventies. I knew the etchings from the collection quite well, but the paintings were an eyeopener for me and i compared them immediately with the experience i had when i saw similar kind of paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat in the Beyeler Museum some years ago.
There are many similarities between these two artists and their paintings and when you realize that most of these were made 20 to 25 years before Basquiat made his works you can only admire the Heyboer’s even more. I like this Heyboer exhibition very much and for me it is one of the best the Gemeentemuseum organized in the last 5 years.
and of course there are some nice Heyboer publications available at www.ftn-books.com
Yesterday il learned that one of the icons in the dutch gallery scene has died. Hans Sonnenberg founded Delta gallery in Rotterdam, which opened its doors on 8 January 1962 and it was the first gallery in Rotterdam that concentrated exclusively on contemporary art. The role that Hans Sonnenberg played as gallery owner and collector in the Rotterdam art world cannot be overestimated. He succeeded time and again in bringing international developments to the harbour city. In addition, he was aware of the importance of a platform for Rotterdam artists. Sonnenberg has run Delta for an uninterrupted period of fifty years. In his opinion, the gallery owner should ideally be closely connected with the gallery. “The gallery and the gallery owner are one. They call me Mister Delta, but Delta is Hans Sonnenberg”, says the gallery owner in a recent publication. www.ftn-books.com has some nice gallery Delta publications available.
The painting UNTITLED sold yesterday at Sotheby’s at a record price of over 110 million dollars. With this result it is the record holder of being the highest auction result by an American artist (until now). This result reminded me of the exhibition i have seen some seven years ago in the Beyeler museum.
In all my life this was for me one of the most important exhibitions i have ever seen. A really impressive overview of his paintings and good fortune for me to have seen it, because with auction results like this it will be almost impossible to organize any Basquiat exhibition in the future. Still, some more affordable Basquiat items are available at www.ftn-books.com
Keith Haring had one of his first European exhibitions within the Stedelijk Museum and for this occasion he made a very large ceiling piece/ the VELUM ( 1986), which was there during the exhibitions and for some time after, but….. since the exhibition i have never seen it again! Of course it is possible i have missed it, because i dit not visit the Stedelijk Museum each day i went to Amsterdam, but it is strange that in 30 years i never have seen it again. It was an extremely large piece by Haring and should be one of the key objects within any collection, because it represents everything the art of Keith Haring has become famous for. I checked the site of the Stedelijk Museum , but could not find it in the collection. Any readers who can help?
The site Widewalls has an excellent description why Keith Haring is important and was one of the key figures in the Grafiti art movement.
The 1990s were a time of change for many social and cultural aspects on a global scale. Art particularly saw many artists bring tremendous change in this period, and Keith Haring was one of them. Drawing and painting murals in public locations, Haring was often philosophical about his approach to creating artwork, and was amazed and inspired by the interaction and feedback he would get from people around him. Although he was young, he had developed a very specific concept of what art should represent, and the ideology carried over through his work would leave an everlasting effect on the street culture in New York City, as well as art as a whole. Along with Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kenny Scharf, Futura 2000 and Richard Hambleton, among others, he was part of the young, up-and-coming group of the American artists who challenged art’s old perceptions.
Fortunately the publications on Haring at www.ftn-books.com did not disappear ( but they can get sold out).
Yesterday, i had a short story on the Jean Michel Basquiat Retrospective in the Beyeler Museum. The next day, after that visit we visited the Tinguely Museum in the same city of Basel. The Tinguely Museum is not to be missed and is a museum which will appeal to young and old, because many of the works on display are interactive and can be turned on or off by the public. The Museum shop had something very special at that time…..they had in operation the original Meta-Matic No. 10 by Jean Tinguely which could be operated by the public. Only condition…..buy a sheet of paper and a token with the Tinguely shop.
The paper was the original right size and had a museumstamp on the back to certify the drawing.
The choice of colors was with the buyer of the drawing, but the progress itself was purely automated by the machine. One placed a color in the holder, let the machine do its work for a few seconds, placed a different color and let it work again……and so on. Until the time was up ( i remember it was about 2 minutes in total). A rare occasion on which me, my wife and my sister in law all made drawings. All drawings were certified by the Museum with a stamp on the back.
I bought some extra drawings for my FTN collection and these are now for sale at
Some years later we returned to the Tinguely museum, because we had seen some lovely Modern Art over there. Asking about the Meta-Matic No. 10 we learned that it had been removed from the shop area and was now in revision, because of the wear it had when used for making these drawings. My guess is these drawings at FTN-books are about the last drawings that will be for sale.
In any case they are very interesting to look at and to see what kind of abstract drawing a Tinguely machine can make.
Artist/ Author: Oliver Boberg
Title : Memorial
Publisher: Oliver Boberg
Measurements: Frame measures 51 x 42 cm. original C print is 35 x 25 cm.
signed by Oliver Boberg in pen and numbered 14/20 from an edition of 20