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Yutaka Sakano: Jean-Michel Basquiat 1983
Jean-Michel Basquiat in Issey Miyake 1983Photography © Yutaka Sakano

Secret drawings in invisible UV paint have been found in Basquiat paintings

New markings were discovered in a 1981 piece by the New York art wunderkind

Drawings made by Jean-Michel Basquiat in invisible ink have been discovered on one of his artworks, hinting at more secret messages and pieces across his iconic catalogue of art.

Art conservator Emily Macdonald-Korth found the markings when working on Basquiat’s “Untitled (1981)” for a client who wanted to be sure the painting was from 1981. As told to and reported by Artnet News, Macdonald-Korth was analysing the work using UV and infrared lights, spotting the invisible ink when examining the painting for repair.

Speaking to Artnet News she said: “I’ve never seen anything like it. He basically did a totally secret part of this painting.”

“He must have been playing with a UV flashlight and thought, ‘this is cool.’ It really relates to his use of erasure.”

There are two small arrows done in invisible ink, in a similar way to the arrows visible on the work in red and black oil.

Back in 2012, a signature of the artist done in invisible ink was discovered on “Orange Sports Figure” (1982). Macdonald-Korth believes more UV work could be found in his paintings, specifically those with similar arrow motifs, like his famous “Poison Oasis”.

The art conservator is asking anyone who owns original Basquiat paintings to purchase a long-wave UV flashlight to inspect their works for UV ink.

The interest and love for the New York artist has only grown since his tragic death in 1988. A contemporary of Andy Warhol, he first drew attention for his provocative, mysterious SAMO street art, before taking the art world by storm with his neo-expressionist paintings that focus on identity, power structures, race and pop culture.

Back in September, news broke that a musical based on the life of Basquiat would be brought to the stage, with the help of the artist’s estate. A biopic was made on his life back in 1996, with David Bowie playing Andy Warhol and Jeffrey Wright as Basquiat. Books, documentaries and tribute exhibitions have been released and shown in the decades since his death. The first large-scale UK exhibition of his work took place in 2017, titled Boom for Real.