Lot 195
Tony Shafrazi and att. Jean-Michel Basquiat, KILL LIES ALL, Graffiti Work on Restaurant Linen
Lot Details & Additional Photographs
Black marker on commercial cloth restaurant linen/napkin, primary text reads KILL LIES ALL, signed by Tony Shafrazi, napkin also bears Jean-Michel Basquiat's "JMB" stamp at upper left, framed.

Tony Shafrazi is a forerunner in graffiti art and a gallery owner. He is known for spray painting "KILL LIES ALL" over Picasso's masterpiece Guernica - one of the most recognizable works of art in existence - and subsequently building a major market for graffiti art.

In 1974, Guernica was on loan to MoMA in New York when Shafrazi snuck a can of red spray paint into the museum and defaced Picasso's monumental painting. As guards led Shafrazi away, he shouted that he was an artist and wanted to speak to the curator. He said that the spray paint over Picasso's anti-war-themed painting Guernica was a protest against the Vietnam War. This outrageous graffiti incident helped fuel major success for Shafrazi in the art world. He eventually opened his own art gallery, where he began to represent artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Francis Bacon, and even Picasso.

Diego Cortez, who owned the KILL LIES ALL work offered here, had multiple connections with Shafrazi. Just several weeks after Shafrazi vandalized Guernica, MoMA hired Cortez as part of their museum security team to guard the painting. Shafrazi and Cortez became involved in the same art and social circles, and in 1984, they co-curated Homage to Picasso, an exhibition at the Shafrazi Gallery.

This work is on what appears to be a used commercial restaurant napkin, and it bears the same KILL LIES ALL text in black marker that Shafrazi spray painted over Guernica in 1974. The napkin is signed by Shafrazi and is dated twice, implying it could be a preparatory work for the 1974 graffiti incident (though there is question regarding the months indicated) or a precursor. The napkin also has Jean-Michel Basquiat's "JMB" stamp, suggesting a connection to the artist.

Napkin dimensions 19 1/2 x 18 1/2 in.; Frame dimensions 21 1/2 x 20 3/4 in.

From the Estate of the late Diego Cortez, New York and North Carolina
Diego Cortez (1946-2021), an art curator and filmmaker, was a cultural cornerstone in New York City who helped shape the art, music, and film scene from the 1970s forward. Among his incalculable list of accomplishments, Cortez is credited with launching the career of Jean-Michel Basquiat when he included him in his major 1981 exhibition New York/New Wave.

Cortez (née James Curtis), was raised in Geneva, Illinois, and went on to attend Illinois State University and later the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for a Master's degree. He changed his name to Diego Cortez in 1973 when moving to New York in honor of his hometown of Geneva, a Hispanic neighborhood. Early on, Cortez developed and fostered numerous connections with major figures in New York and he established himself as a key player. He worked as a studio assistant for artists Dennis Oppenheim and Vito Acconci and later directed music videos for rock bands Blondie and Talking Heads. He also wrote Private Elvis, a photographic book about Elvis Presley's time in the army in West Germany.

Cortez cofounded the Mudd Club in 1978, a hybrid nightclub/art space in Tribeca that was frequented by celebrities, artists, and musicians. It was on the dance floor of the Mudd Club that he first met Basquiat. In 1981, Cortez curated New York/New Wave, a major avant-garde exhibition at MoMA PS1 in Queens. It featured a new generation of artists as well as art superstars, such as Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Nan Goldin, Keith Haring, Fab Five Freddy, Robert Maplethorpe, and others. New York/New Wave was a turning point in the art world, as it ushered in anti-establishment art forms such as graffiti art and street art.

The transformative ideas Cortez put in motion throughout his life are threaded throughout New York City and beyond. In this collection you will see links between the Cortez as the collector, the artists and makers of these works, as well as the subjects. This selection of objects from Cortez's collection touches upon seminal connections he had throughout his monumental life and career.

$1,000 - 3,000