For the talented and prolific Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1985 shaped up to be a banner year. In February, his portrait was on the cover of The New York Times Magazine as part of an article touting “New Art New Money.” In March, he had a major show at the prestigious Mary Boone Gallery; and then in September, another exhibition, of the collaborative paintings that he made with Andy Warhol, opened to acclaim and received international attention.
The 1980s was a time when artists, especially successful artists, were stars in demand, and nowhere was this more obvious than in New York’s nightclubs. Warhol had led the way as a much photographed regular at Studio 54. A new crop of downtown artists were the draw at the Mudd Club, where their exhibitions and innovative theme parties brought in crowds and set an example for other clubs. A major part of the ambiance at the Palladium were the giant murals the club commissioned from Basquiat, Keith Haring and other artists.
AREA became the city’s top club in the mid-80s, with much of its success rooted in its popularity among artists, many of whom participated in the club’s ambitious program of creating new themes and décor every six weeks. In 1985, AREA was the place where Basquiat could most often be found, a connection documented not only in photographs but also in a handful of club invitations, two of which are now amongst the most coveted of Basquiat ephemera items.
Art, Opening at AREA, May 8, 1985
AREA Nightclub, Photo by Michael Halsband at Mr. Chow’s, With Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Julian Schnabel and Others, Card with Envelope, May 8, 1985
Size: 8 x 10 inches
AREA brought a who’s who of art world stars to the club with a six-week, theme show exhibition simply titled “ART.” Most memorable was the invitation featuring a group portrait of the participating artists arranged by AREA at the trendy Mr. Chow’s restaurant. Basquiat stands prominently near the front, mockingly wearing a bow tie and holding a plate as if he were the waiter. The unidentified group sitting at the front of the photo are the owners of AREA. Today this photo by Michael Halsband enjoys iconic status. Later in 1985, Halsband also shot the famous series of photos of Basquiat and Warhol as boxers, which were used to publicize their joint exhibition.
AREA, A Benefit for Haitian Children, September 30, 1985
AREA, Benefit For Haitian Children, Group show with Basquiat, Haring, Warhol, Poster, September 30, 1985
Size: 11 x 17 inches
Most of the benefits held at AREA were for art institutions. It is likely that this Benefit for Haitian Children with Basquiat lending his name to the invitation was inspired in part by Basquiat’s own heritage and his prominent presence at the club. The charity group Siloe that organized the event was based in San Francisco near where the owners of AREA originally came from.
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s and Eric Goode’s Birthday Party, AREA, December 19, 1985
AREA Nightclub, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s and Eric Goode’s Birthday Party, Folded Poster, December 19, 1985
Size: 11 x 17 inches
Because Basquiat’s and AREA owner Eric Goode’s birthdays were only three days apart, they decided to give a party together. This was likely encouraged by Jennifer Goode, Eric’s sister and Basquiat’s girlfriend. The invitation featuring a drawing by Basquiat was twice the size of a typical AREA invitation, and as it is amongst the rarest of Basquiat ephemera, this is likely because only a limited number were printed.
AREA, Third Anniversary Party, December 31, 1986
Size: 5 x 7 inches