Flexible (1984 painting)

Flexible is a painting created by American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat in 1984. The artwork, which portrays a griot, sold for $45.3 million at Phillips in May 2018.[1]

ArtistJean-Michel Basquiat
MediumAcrylic and oilstick on wood
Dimensions259.1 cm × 190.5 cm (102.0 in × 75.0 in)


Jean-Michel Basquiat rose to prominence as a graffiti artist in the late 1970s, operating under the pseudonym SAMO.[2] In the early 1980s, he began to direct his creative output towards painting and drawing. Basquiat often painted on objects he found in the streets such as discarded doors and furniture.[3] By 1984, he had achieved international stardom for his artwork. Flexible was painted on a slatted 8.5 ft tall wood support that had been deconstructed from the fence at his studio in Venice, California.[2] Basquiat later made several wood slat picture supports from material purchased at a SoHo lumber yard in New York.[2] The wood slat fencing material was used in more than 17 paintings made between 1984 and 1986, including Gold Griot (1984), M (1984), Grillo (1984), and Jim Crow (1986).[4]

Flexible depicts a griot—a storyteller, musician, and purveyor of oral history from West African culture—whose arms are joined together as a continuous band above the head.[5] It was offered for sale for the first time, publicly or privately, in 2018. The painting was consigned directly from the Basquiat's estate.[2] In May 2018, it sold for $45.3 million at Phillips' 20th Century & Contemporary Evening Sale, exceeding the pre-sale estimate of $20 million.[1][6] It is the first Basquiat painting made after 1983 to sell for more than $20 million.


Flexible has been exhibited at major art institutions worldwide, which include:

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Armstrong, Annie (May 18, 2018). "$45.3 M. Basquiat Is Top Lot in Robust $131.6 M. Phillips Sale of 20th-Century and Contemporary Art". ARTnews. Retrieved 2021-01-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ a b c d "Phillips to Offer Basquiat's "Flexible" for First Time at Auction". Art & Object. March 30, 2018. Retrieved 2021-01-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. ^ "Jean-Michel Basquiat: Street As Studio". Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Retrieved 2021-01-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ a b c d e f "Jean-Michel Basquiat - Flexible". Phillips. Retrieved 2021-01-10.
  5. ^ Westall, Mark (March 29, 2018). "Phillips to Offer Basquiat's Flexible, the Iconic Painting's First Time at Auction". FAD Magazine. Retrieved 2021-01-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ Sarah P., Hanson (May 4, 2018). "Basquiat's $20m work takes centre stage in Phillips sale". The Art Newspaper. Retrieved 2021-01-10.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)