July 10, 2020 1:26pm
Jean-Michel Basquiat meets Dr. Martens in the latest collaboration between the artist’s estate and a retailer. On Thursday, the British footwear brand unveiled a new line featuring art from the paintings Dustheads and Pez Dispenser and the album cover for “Beat Bop,” a 1983 single by Rammellzee and K-Rob. The line, available now the Dr. Martens site, includes the classic 1460 boot (along with a children’s version) and the 1461 boot.
Basquiat became famous in the early 1980s as part of SAMO, the graffiti duo that tagged structures around New York’s Lower East Side. Basquiat, after informally emancipating himself after high school, often paid his bills by selling hand-painted t-shirts. A collaboration with Andy Warhol helped cement his stature in the New York art scene.
Basquiat died of a heroin overdose in 1988, soon after having attained the status of an art star with his Neo-Expressionist works. Since then, market prices for his work have skyrocketed, and his art has been the focus of various luxury fashion projects. Meanwhile, new scholarship has zeroed in on the politics of his art—a recent exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum curated by Chaédria LaBouvier focused on Basquiat’s response to the killing of Michael Stewart.
The Dr. Martens project with the Basquiat estate follows similar ones spearheaded by Supreme, Uniqlo, and the Brant Foundation, among others. The Dr. Martens boots bear some of his most recognizable motifs, such as crowns and skull imagery. The 1460 boot is decorated with elements of the black-and white album cover for original pressing “Beat Bop”—an explosion bursting with the word “BANG!,” bones, and Roman numerals. Basquiat designed the work for Rammellzee, who was himself an influential artist in New York, in 1983. Upon its release from Basquiat’s Tartown Inc. imprint, records went for thousands of dollars.
The 1461 boot incorporates iconography from Dustheads (1982), one of Basquiat’s most ambitious pieces. In the seven-foot-tall canvas, two colorful, chaotic figures are painted against a black background. The painting broke auction records for the artist when it sold for $48.8 million at Christie’s New York in 2013. The crowned dinosaur of the artist’s Basquiat’s Pez Dispenser (1984) is featured on the child’s boot.