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The paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat, which the following collected original prints are after, are entitled The Daros Suite of Thirty-Two Drawings due to their housing at the Daros Collection in Zurich. As is characteristic, Basquiat’s mark-making is chaotic, frenzied and childlike; the paintings cover a range of themes, sporting, black excellence, capitalism and anarchy.

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Meaning & Analysis

This grouping of prints is based on the series of paintings entitled The Daros Suite of Thirty-Two Drawings, so-called due to their housing at the Daros Collection in Zurich. A range of pertinent themes in Basquiat’s oeuvre are feverishly present in this collection. As is characteristic of Basquiat’s work, the mark making is chaotic, frenzied and childlike, replete with blunt, evocative sketches. What at first appears to be a riotous approach to composition belies a method driven by intention and attention to detail, causing fundamental social contradictions to run feverishly across the images’ surface.

The sporting theme of Olympic and Boxing evoke other images by the artist which pay tribute to Black icons of sport which appear consistently in the artist’s work. In Jesse, which references the iconic athlete who set world records at the 1936 Olympics against the backdrop of Hitler’s Germany, swastikas can be seen alongside labelled diagrams of the athlete’s body, juxtaposing Owens’ athletic greatness with the social context of the rise of Hitler’s politics of white supremacy. This interest in Black celebrity and achievement against a backdrop of racism, hostility and marginalisation is revisited by Basquiat throughout his career, for example in Hollywood Africans.

Another theme which emerges in this collection is that of a struggle between cohesion and anarchy, often centering on animal imagery. In Leeches, depictions of insects and parasites squirm clash anatomical drawings, text referring to chemical substances and figures of authority and power, suggestive of the eternal confrontation between the forces of ‘civilisation’ against an uncontrollable subterranean force. In Wolf Sausage and Dog Leg Study, we see depictions of dogs and canine body parts alongside sausages and other meat products, juxtaposing the perception of dogs as human-like against society’s treatment of animals as foodstuffs. These jarring contrasts are emphasised by the artist’s strident and clashing mark making, causing social contradictions to flash up unapologetically in the viewer’s field of vision.

A similar discussion of the struggle between the idea of societal advancement and an irrepressible and ambiguous reverse force is present in Ascent. Religious imagery alluding to resurrection (including an angelic figure floating upwards) collides with suggestions of death and inevitable destruction, evocative of a tension between earthliness and spirituality. Amongst these culturally-specific references, arrows pointing upwards and downwards acknowledge the same themes in a far more simplistic manner.

10 Facts About Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Daros Suite

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Daros Suite. A Neo Expressionist screenprint featuring four of Basquiat’s works in the series: Ascent, Olympic, Leeches, and Liberty.

Daros Suite © Jean-Michel Basquiat 2017.

1. It’s named after the Daros Collection

The actual name of the series is intrinsically linked to its prestigious housing at the Daros Collection in Zurich, a renowned institution known for its extensive assemblage of modern and contemporary art. This collection not only provides a sheltering haven for the series but also aligns Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work with a lineage of artistic brilliance and innovation housed within the same space. The naming signifies a relationship between the art and its residing environment, echoing the same energy Basquiat often explored in his work.

A Neo Expressionist screenprint of a collection of texts, figures, and images across a white background.

50 Cent Piece © Jean-Michel Basquiat 2019

2. It’s made up of 32 drawings

The Daros suite features 32 drawings inspired by Basquiat's original paintings. This esteemed collection, deeply rooted in Basquiat's improvisational style, provides viewers with a carefully curated journey through his unique lens. Far from being simple reproductions, each print stands as a thoughtful, intentional reflection of the original.

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Dog Leg Study. A Neo Expressionist screenprint of various texts including "Famous Dog Leg Study" combined with anatomical figures and characters against a white background.

Dog Leg Study © Jean-Michel Basquiat 2019

3. Basquiat's love for anatomy is adequately displayed

Anatomy takes centre stage with bones, skulls, and feet recurring frequently throughout the series. While other pieces subtly incorporate these motifs, Dog Led Study places them in relief against a minimalist white background. This deliberate choice accentuates features like eyes and various body parts, encapsulating Basquiat's fascination with the human form and its symbolic resonance.

 Jean-Michel Basquiat's Boxer Rebellion. A Neo Expressionist screenprint of two abstract figures boxing in the centre of a white background with various texts and characters.

Boxer Rebellion © Jean-Michel Basquiat 2018