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JEF BRETSCHNEIDER: "MADONNA DAVINCI" Drawing by JEAN MICHEL BASQUIAT with 3 Jef Bretschneider mentions

35, 40 years ago, before digital de-evolution, during days "ye olde", a time when I lived the inexcusable life, Jean Michel Basquiat and I were friends.


As Jean's fame and notoriety grew

our path parted...


I received an email containing a JPEG of one of Jean's drawings. The Photographer, Stephen Torton, sent it to me.


There are several drawings and paintings I know of where Jean incorporated my name. This one, I had never seen before. As I studied it, I saw my name tributed 3 times!


Ushering in...memories from another era.


This drawing can be found in the Enrico Navarra book documenting Jean's work.





After posting the Jean Michel Basquiat drawing (attached above), I recieved several emails asking me "personal" questions about "the 80's scene".
Much of my energy 30 to 40 years ago was not focused. I was self absorbed and vainly directed. The decision to step off the New York bandwagon of the 80's--to clean up and reset priorities--
It was the best thing i ever did!
I live today-- and plan for tomorrow.




My 2010 posting about Jean and the 80's "Scene":


When someone discovers I associated with New York's "Downtown" art/music scene of the 70's and 80's--- I'm asked, 'Did you know this person or that person?'  


Their  inquisitiveness is often driven by a book, movie, documentary, they read or watched. 


BACK STORY: 20 years ago, in 1990, the author Phoebe Hoban called me. She was writing a Basquiat biography and asked for my input. Her seriousness won me and I participated in a Q and A with her over the course of a week. Prior to this, I had been interviewed by a film-maker (who's name I don't remember. I think he called himself Krzysztof)  He had envisioned a dramatic feature film on Jean and was seeking anecdotes. Krzysztof's movie was never produced, but I did hear rumor the material he collected and the first draft script he wrote was purchased by the artist Julian Schnabel, who used portions of it in his debut film "BASQUIAT", with Jeffrey Wright.




Before uneasiness and drugs stole him, Jean's phenomenal rise in the art-world was an exciting thing to watch. Artistic acclaim is rare. Few emerge.


Mutual interest, youthful encounter, dark humor, and self medication, brought Jean and I together. Watching him rise as quickly as he did made an indelible impression on me, and it was a life lesson. The knowledge I garnered about art and the art world---it's machinations---surpass anything the best art schools could offer---


Now, 30 years later, Jean's life, work, and premature death, have become art mythology.


So when I'm asked about Jean, instead of retelling what I remember and risk distorting facts, I refer my anecdotes in Phoebe Hoban's book, "Basquiat, A Quick Killing in Art".  Because she started writing it shortly after his death, my recollections were fresher then. By turning to that book, I'm assured my "interactions" and "perceptions" are consistent, never veering into whim and fancy. 


In retrospect, I thank God for all the good (and bad!) that has happened to me. I've been given the gift of time and space...not to die --But to live and become!



JEF BRETSCHNEIDER                                                                                                                               2010




Jef Bretschneider (1978)
        Photo: Lisa Rinzler        


Phoebe Hoban’s,

“BASQUIAT:A Quick Killing In Art”






Annina Nosei Gallery



Excerpt from Phoebe Hoban’s, “A Quick Killing In Art”


The day after the show, Jean-Michel, who had been up all night partying, rode out to Brooklyn in a limo with two friends, musician Arto Lindsay and Jeff Bretschneider.  “"It was about six-thirty and I was getting dressed,”" says Gerard Basquiat. "“Jean-Michel was wearing a pin-striped suit and he came into the kitchen and he said, ‘Papa, I’ve made it.’ And he gave his younger sister Jeanine a pocketful of money.”"


Recalls Bretschneider, "“He went in and gave money to his father, and he was very concerned about his sister. He went there to park the limo out in front, to walk in with his clothes, and to show his father he had made some money. But I know he walked out of there feeling really empty. Whatever he went back for, it wasn't there.”" 










MARCH 1983

Excerpt from Phoebe Hoban’s, “A Quick Killing In Art”


The opening itself was glamorous even by Hollywood standards. “It’s like a Hollywood premiere …all this energy and vitality,” Irving Blum told the gossip columnist of The Hollywood Reporter. He was in town with Roy Lichtenstein. Also present were Gene Kelly, Diandra Douglas, and producer Steve Tisch.


“"It was a wonderful Spring evening in Los Angeles",” reminisces Jef Bretschneider, who flew out to California for the occasion. "“It was a huge, garage like space, swarming with people. I went with John Lurie and it was a fucking mob scene. Like a lot of openings in the eighties, it was not about what work was on the walls, but which people were in the room."”


Bretschneider taped the event for posterity. "“I decided to videotape peoples reactions to Jean'’s work. One young couple told me it was the biggest con they ever saw. Another guy told me he was one of Jean-Michel’s best friends. I had never seen him before, but people were already saying they were ‘a friend of the artist.’ I met another woman who said she had a friend who owned five Basquiats. Five Basquiats! One for each home! Shenge [a friend who would later become one of Basquiat’s assistants] was rolling joints in the office, where Jean was hanging out. Suddenly, Gagosian comes in with Roy Lichtenstein, this icon, and introduces him to Jean."”


When Basquiat took off for the private dinner after the show, Bretschneider left too. But, it seemed, Jean did not intend to include his New York friends." “I saw Larry’s Mercedes pull up beside my rental car,” says Bretschneider. “And I looked at Jean and we exchanged smiles. Then they just pulled away. Jean and Larry and Larry’s beautiful girlfriend. Jean was already moving up the ladder."







MAY 1984

Excerpt from Phoebe Hoban’s, “A Quick Killing In Art”


“Basquiat’s first show at Mary Boone, which opened on May 5, 1984, was a huge success, despite the fact that Boone herself felt that it had been rushed. " “It was supposed to be in the fall of 1985, but then Julian (Schnabel) left, and I thought I needed something really energetic at that point,"” she says. " “Usually I don’t do a show with an artist immediately, not until I’ve already created a market for the work. So it was a very last-minute decision."”



Everyone showed up at the opening, including the artist’s father (Gerard), who seemed to appreciate his son’s work only in public, and Andy Warhol. Recalls Jef Bretschneider, " “Jean had moved into blue-chip status. Andy was standing in the entrance of the gallery, and he stood there the entire length of the show. It was a barometer to where Jean was in the art world. But the paintings were more like a wallpaper version of his work. The opening was a circus. The Day of the Locusts. People were pushing up against this velvet rope that separated Jean-Michel from the thronging mass, and Jean-Michel was letting in whoever he thought was appropriate. Some woman offered Jean her baby, and he lifted it up with his arms above him, and looked at us with a big smile. I'’ll never forget that.”"



165 W 23rd STREET NYC

Excerpt from Phoebe Hoban’s, “A Quick Killing In Art”

Jef Bretschneider lived on Twenty-third Street and Seventh Avenue; “between the Chelsea Hotel and Squat Theater,” those were the directions he’d give first time visitors. Bretschneider’s apartment served as a kind of drug den and cross-cultural salon of the early-eighties, After Club 57, after the Mudd Club, after the last after-hours joint had wound down, a group of regulars would congregate in Bretschneider’s place and hang out until it was time to start the club crawl again. John Sex, John Lurie, Deborah Harry, Chris Stein, Henry Geldzahler, Billy Idol, Michael Stewart, Cookie Mueller, Klaus Nomi, Rammellzee, Fab 5 Freddy---the list sounds like a downtown social register." “Nobody worked,”" explained Bretschneider, himself a kid from the suburbs." “Everybody seemed to have underground incomes.”"


Basquiat left a number of paintings and drawings at Bretschneider’s apartment, and asked him to try to sell them to David Bowie. Every day, he would show up with a friend, musician Arto Lindsay, for hours of coke snorting, "“Whenever I got a new shipment of coke,"” said Bretschneider," “I would invite them for a taste-test. We’d sit listening to new music then go out to the clubs. We never discussed art." (Lindsay says with amusement that this is a slight exaggeration of their activities.)


One time Basquiat came over to Bretschneider’s and brought Nosei with him." “I thought it was strange and unorthodox to bring this older woman over."” said Bretschneider." “But she came in and was fascinated with the place. She said it reminded her of the sixties."

JEF BRETSCHNEIDER: 1980-81 Jef Bretschneider with a guest at 23rd street loft. Note: Two Basquiat oil stick drawings share the wall with "Shifting Borders" . Sitting across from Jef is the cinematographer, Lisa Rinzler; Pollack, Menace 2 Society, Dead Presidents, Trees Lounge, etc.

PHOTO ABOVE: With friends inside my 23rd street loft.
NOTE: Two Basquiat oil stick drawings share the wall with "Shifting Borders". 
Sitting across from me (back to camera) is the cinematographer, Lisa Rinzler. This was before she established her prolific reputation with films such as; Three Seasons, Pollack, Menace 2 Society, Dead Presidents, Trees Lounge, etc...
One word describes Lisa's iron professionalism: Committed!
Jon Neuburger took this photo and kindly sent it to me.

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