While the three-pointed crown was undoubtedly Jean-Michel Basquiat‘s signature design element, his works were brimming with a myriad of references. As an artist, he is known for a visual vocabulary that embraced motif’s eluding to a wide range of subjects, including his own biography, from his passionate interests to his hardships as a young adult. And with Kidrobot having recontextualizing several of Basquiat’s two-dimensional pieces into the sculptural realm for their Jean-Michel Basquiat Dunny Series, it provides collectors with a new way to appreciate, examine, and understand the artist and his works.

Works from the Jean-Michel Basquiat Dunny Series

Beat Bop, 1983

In 1983, Basquiat produced and independently released a 12-inch record titled “Beat Bop” on his own Tartown Records. Featuring a ten-minute verbal sparring match by American rappers Rammellzee and K-Rob on the A-Side and an instrumental version on the reverse, Basquiat personally created exclusive artwork for the front and back cover as well as the paper labels on either side of the vinyl. Noted as having an abstract syncopation and overall sound, which the artist reflected in his drawn design, Basquiat’s visual contribution contains several elements characteristic of his work from this period. Perhaps one of the most successful artists to integrate text into his works, Basquiat’s usage of the written word is similar to scat singing, recognizable words lending the feel of logical meaning to raw expressions of suggestiveness. For instance, “Beat Bop” is expressed on the front’s top-left near “Bbp”, which can be seen as an abbreviation of the record’s title as well as a stylized musical notation for B-flat with soft dynamic indication. Also of note are the cartoonish bones adorning this design, which some scholars have interpreted as stemming from Basquiat’s preoccupation with death while others believe it to be a reclamation of art from his African heritage, specifically the Maasai peoples‘ frequent use of bones in their art.

Trumpet, 1984

The 1984 painting Trumpet is one of several pieces in Basquiat’s oeuvre to address jazz, paying tribute to a musical style he loved through this energetic and erratic composition. And while the artist’s signature crown motif can be interpreted in various ways, here it most likely refers to the notion of “kingship” within jazz culture, a term used to denote the “crowning” of a truly talented and expert performer, such as Louis Armstrong or Dizzy Gillespie. By extending the black coloration of the crown down onto the musician’s face, Basquiat is making this piece uniquely African American, emphasizing jazz’s origins as a non-white creative movement and subsequently ensuring that the form’s originators are granted the canonization they deserve.

The Dingoes That Park Their Brains with their Gum, 1988

Basquiat’s final solo exhibition during his lifetime was held at Vrej Baghoomian Gallery in April of 1988, the paintings displayed including Eroica I, Eroica II, Riding with Death, The Mechanics That Always Have a Gear Left Over, and The Dingoes That Park Their Brains with their Gum. Floating on a sea of cerulean blue, denied any sense of depth by their cartoonish depiction, the inhabitants of The Dingoes That Park Their Brains with their Gum are teeming with scathing irony. By using a trio of dingoes, an Australian wild dog known for being a solitary scavenger, Basquiat is potentially recalling his period of homelessness. With two facing what may be a refrigerator box home, the third is attired in more upscale dressings, staring directly at the viewer as it enjoys the warmth of flames. And while the aesthetic of this work is consistent with several of the artist’s works from 1986 until his death, its title has been subject to much conjecture, though it may most obviously refer to one sleeping on a park bench, a place some would stick their used chewing gum underneath. Perhaps of note is the oversized, black-and-silver announcement for the Vrej Baghoomian Gallery exhibition (view here), in which Basquiat clutches a well-worn copy of Jack Kerouac‘s The Subterraneans, a novel about an interracial relationship and bohemian friendships present in a stream-of-consciousness style, similar to the free association feel of this painting’s title.

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Jean-Michel Basquiat Dunny Series from Kidrobot
Transitioning artwork intended for two-dimensional space onto a sculptural form can be a perilous task, one that involves carefully maintaining the original work's intended aesthetic and structure while also causing it to envelop a three-dimensional space. And while an undertaking of this sort can go horribly wrong, Kidrobot have succeeded…
Jean-Michel Basquiat Dunny Series from Kidrobot
Perhaps unable to see past the superficial aesthetics conveyed through a cursory glance, some have hastily judged the works of Jean-Michel Basquiat as being childish. Often considered a neo-expressionist, known for their intense subjectivity and rough portrayal of recognizable objects, this doesn't account for Basquiat's tendencies to veer the polar…
Jean-Michel Basquiat Dunny Series, Part Two
Jean-Michel Basquiat Dunny Series, Part Four