Madonna Says Jean-Michel Basquiat Took Back and Destroyed Paintings He Gave Her

Jean-Michel Basquiat with Oxidized Portrait by Warhol
Jean-Michel Basquiat with Oxidized Portrait by Warhol, 1987. Photo: Tseng Kwong Chi, courtesy Eric Firestone Gallery .


Madonna, queen of pop, has opened up about her early 1980s relationship with painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, and it would appear the two had a pretty ugly breakup.

Basquiat, who died in 1988 at the age of 27, went on to become a hugely successful artist, due in part to his close ties to Andy Warhol (see Basquiat’s Mystique and Market Keep Rising). (An exhibition of Basquiat’s notebooks goes on view at the Brooklyn Museum next month—see Brooklyn Museum to Exhibit Rare Basquiat Notebooks).

As for his time with Madonna, the pair dated when both were on the cusp of wider fame, when Madonna was at work on her eponymous debut album (see Madonna Memorabilia Heads to Auction). But when things ended, they ended badly (see Madonna’s Wedding Dress Sells for $81 K).

“He wouldn’t stop doing heroin. He was an amazing man and deeply talented, I loved him,” said Madonna on a recent appearance on the Howard Stern Show (via Art Market Monitor). “When I broke up with him he made me give [the paintings he gave me] back to him. And then he painted over them black.”

Even if she had been able to hold on to Basquiat’s art, there’s no guarantee the artist’s family would have acknowledged the works were by his hand. Last year, Alexis Adler, another one of his ex-girlfriends, attempted to sell at Christie’s a cache of artworks he had left her. Basquiat’s sisters responded with a $1 million law suit (see Christie’s Is Offering Fake Jean-Michel Basquiat Works, Artist’s Sisters Claim).

Though Madonna’s relationship with the painter was short-lived, Basquiat’s artistic drive had a profound impact on her. For a recent article in Interview magazine, the singer spoke with magician David Blaine about Basquiat’s work ethic (see Paris Names Public Square After Basquiat).

“I remember getting up in the middle of the night and he wouldn’t be in bed lying next to me; he’d be standing, painting, at four in the morning, this close to the canvas, in a trance. I was blown away by that, that he worked when he felt moved.”

The singer recently included Basquiat’s photo in a poorly received social media campaign for her upcoming album, Rebel Heart. Madonna recreated the cover, which depicts her face wrapped in bondage cords, with photos of Basquiat and other deceased celebrities and important figures including Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Jr., Bob Marley, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, and John Lennon (see Madonna Posts Offensive ‘Bondage’ Images of Basquiat, Lennon, Princess Di).

As for what artists are currently inspiring her, Madonna is a fan of graffiti artists Banksy and JR because “their art is on the street, available for anyone to see. It’s not elitist.”

Madonna recently came under fire for refusing to loan a rare Frida Kahlo painting to the Detroit Institute of Arts (see Madonna Refused to Loan a Frida Kahlo Painting to Detroit Institute of Arts for Blockbuster Show).

For more on celebrity art collections, check out From Hollywood to the Art World, the New Celebrity Collectors, Take a Look Inside Leonardo DiCaprio’s Growing Art Collection, and Sneak Peek at Beyoncé and Jay Z’s Art Collection.

Follow Artnet News on Facebook:

Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.


Article topics

artnet and our partners use cookies to provide features on our sites and applications to improve your online experience, including for analysis of site usage, traffic measurement, and for advertising and content management. See our Privacy Policy for more information about cookies. By continuing to use our sites and applications, you agree to our use of cookies.

Subscribe or log in to read the rest of this content.

You are currently logged into this Artnet News Pro account on another device. Please log off from any other devices, and then reload this page continue. To find out if you are eligible for an Artnet News Pro group subscription, please contact [email protected]. Standard subscriptions can be purchased on the subscription page.

Log In