“Bird Lives!” Signed by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Written by Ross Russell, Published by Da Capo Press, 1986


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.

Jean-Michel Basquiat Signed


A Survey of Jean-Michel Basquiat Ephemera: 1981–88

Similar to the way paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat have played a key role in the frenzy surrounding contemporary high-end art auctions, the same is happening in the more limited market of vintage contemporary art ephemera. The cards, posters and publications that feature Basquiat and chart the important moments in his…