If you want to buy a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat, get ready to pony up $100 million.
But, much to the chagrin of his friends, you can also get his work on scented candles, flip-flops, high-end bourbon and even a welcome mat. And those who were close to the artist, who died in 1988, are disgusted by what they view as diluting his legacy.
“I personally think Jean-Michel would be horrified,” Claudia Summers, a writer who was friends with Basquiat, told The Post. “[His sisters] are doing it out of greed.
For all of that, which they view as a dilution of his art, some of Basquiat’s downtown crowd blame the late artist’s sisters, Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux.
The two oversee the estate of the artist, who palled around with Andy Warhol and reigned as a 1980s shining art-star.
“They say they want to make Jean available to everyone. But they are diluting the power of his art,” said Summers, who acted alongside Basquiat in the movie “Downtown 81.”
Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux did not respond to The Post’s requests for comment.
Basquiat is not the only artist to have his work commercialized — there are Francis Bacon cushions, Jackson Pollock socks and Keith Haring rugs, boxer briefs and much, much more. But Al Diaz, an old-school graffiti artist who collaborated with Basquiat on the infamous SAMO tag (it was an abbreviation of “same old s–t”), believes that the sisters have taken it further than most legacy guardians.
“Other estates do not handle the merch so cavalierly,” Diaz told The Post. “The Basquiats have set the bar lower than anyone else.”
Diaz, who had a legal tiff with the sisters over the copyright of SAMO (according to Diaz, it was declared that neither party would own the copyright), is unimpressed with how the art gets used on consumer goods.
“They take bits and pieces of a work and cut it up,” he said. “That would bother most artists — unless they do the cutting.
“Someone else does it and, seriously, that could be grounds for a fistfight.”
Summers took to Instagram to express her feelings about “the appalling greed of the Basquiat sisters,” which brought sharp responses from the artist’s former crew and beyond.
“Omg … this is awful and sooo tone deaf,” commented actress Debi Mazar, who has previously said that pals Basquiat and Haring painted a refrigerator for her.
“So gross,” wrote film and video director Katherine Dieckmann, who was part of Basquiat’s downtown scene.
The Basquiat welcome mats draw extra vitriol.
“He would have been pissed off,” said Diaz, “about people wiping dog s–t from their shoes onto his paintings.”
“His essence is so embedded in his art,” added Eszter Balint, who starred in the 1984 movie “Stranger than Paradise,” knew Basquiat and is in the process of writing a play about growing up on the downtown scene. “This kind of flattening and fetishizing takes people further away from the art.”
While pointing out that she “has no beef with the sisters,” Balint is particularly put off by the use of Basquiat’s art and his name on the labels of Great Jones Distillery’s $45 bottles of bourbon.
“There is an escalator of pain because it pushes alcohol and the guy died of a drug overdose,” she told The Post.
“He died of a drug overdose in his apartment on Great Jones Street!” Summers said. “Jean would be absolutely horrified. He believed that his art should be taken seriously. It’s been turned into kitsch.”
A representative for Great Jones Distillery did not respond to The Post.
Joseph Sheridan, owner of Village Works bookstore, ran in the same circles as Basquiat and his sister dated the artist. He told The Post: “[Basquiat] would not have wanted a liquor ad. Jean-Michel would have thought it was tacky. He would have known those boundaries, sober or high.”
Added Summers of the Basquiat commercialization: “There is anger for a friend and anger that great art is being trivialized by his family.”
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