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View of the recreation of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 57 Great Jones St. studio from the exhibition “King Pleasure.” Visible in the lower right is the book Bird Lives! by Ross Russell.
For those interested in Basquiat art ephemera there is one item that stands out in Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure, the vast exhibition organized by the artist’s sisters and currently on view in NYC. One section of the exhibition recreates Basquiat’s painting studio at 57 Great Jones Street, where amidst the clutter of art supplies and works in progress, viewers can spot conspicuously perched on top of a box at the front of the studio, a copy of the book Bird Lives! The High Life and Hard Times of Charlie “Yardbird” Parker.
Basquiat’s interest in jazz, and especially in the ill-fated inventor of bebop, Charlie Parker, is well known. Less familiar is the fact that Basquiat expressed his enthusiasm for Parker by ordering a carton of Bird Lives! and giving away copies to his friends. The book’s author Ross Russell was Parker’s manager around the time the saxophonist spent six months in Camarillo State Mental Hospital, so it is no surprise that his biography is filled with stories about Bird’s personal struggles and his losing battle with drugs — the same demon that later claimed Basquiat.
It is not known how many copies of Bird Lives! Basquiat gave away or how many he inscribed. The copy illustrated below was given to his friend Lisa Soto in September 1986. With time others are likely to appear.
Over the years Gallery 98 has handled many treasured examples of Basquiat ephemera. Our site includes two online exhibitions: A Survey of Jean-Michel Basquiat Ephemera,1981-88 and Posthumous Basquiat: Art Ephemera from After August 12, 1988.
Basquiat gave copies of Bird Lives! to friends. This one is inscribed to Lisa Soto.