Jean Michel Basquiat: Rusting Red Car in Kuau, 1984


Jean Michel Basquiat – Rusting Red Car in Muau, 1984



Back in the 80’s, Jean Michel Basquiat – along with Andy Warhol – were two people in the art world that I could never quite figure out.

It baffled me as to why the two were celebrated and applauded for what were basically tins of soup and graffiti art that was nowhere near as good as half the street etchings I would see sprawled across South London on my way to and from school or when playing out as a child.

However, despite all this, I knew that there was something hauntingly unique about the two – especially the Haitian/Puerto Rican Basquiat – even though I had no idea what.

Now, some 30 years later, I get it. 

Art is quintessentially the artist’s mind transferred into their work for the world to see. 

The fact that, at at such a young age, I could see (yet not fully comprehend) the FULL workings of Basquiat’s mind through his art is another story for another day (!) but needless to say now, equipped with more knowledge, his work moves me… greatly.

It is therefore, with my great pleasure, that I can now introduce to you Jean Michel Basquiat’s ‘Rusting Red Car in Kuau, 1984’ only eight years old Jean-Michel Basquiat was hit by a car, an
accident that resulted in multiple injuries and a subsequent
hospitalization. As a result of this traumatic experience, the
automobile became a central motif in Basquiat’s work as an artist. As an
emblem of particular importance in both his personal and professional
lives, the car is one of the most recurring elements found in Basquiat
paintings and drawings. As the young artist’s career began to take off
in the early 1980s, he found it increasingly difficult to stay focused
amidst the perils and pressures of life in New York City. As a result,
Basquiat would escape to Hawaii for months upon end throughout the
entirety of his career in an effort to concentrate on his work and to
stay sober. Rusting Red Car in Kuau was executed in 1984 during one of his jaunts to Hawaii, made obvious both from the painting’s title as well as the astute handling of color and line exhibited within the work. The paintings and drawings the artist completed while in Hawaii show exceptional precision and attention to detail, a characteristic made evident by the manner in which the red car is fully rendered as the focal point of the painting. The historical significance of this painting is threefold. In addition to the subject and origin of the work being of particular importance in the context of Basquiat’s career, Red Car in Kuau was completed around the time that Basquiat’s relationship with Andy Warhol began to mature. Many speculate that this work is said to be in reference to Warhol’s car crash images of the 1960s. Red Car in Kuau is a preeminent example of Basquiat in conversation with Andy Warhol, preceding their formal collaboration, which began later that year.


  • Dated 1984
  • Oil stick and oil on canvas
  • 72 x 96 in (182.8 x 243.8 cm)


Please note: Item is final sale

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