WCS is the NBA's Basquiat, Warhol (2022)

Should NBA encourage players to pursue outside interests?

Should NBA encourage players to pursue outside interests?

During a road trip to New York, Sacramento Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein met with Gardy St. Fleur, an art adviser and collector. The two toured a Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibit at The Brant Foundation Center and an Andy Warhol exhibit at The Whitney Museum of American Art. Sports Illustrated tagged along, learning about Cauley-Stein's passion for the art world and what he's learning to advance his budding career off the hardwood.

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NEW YORK — It’s rare that Willie Cauley-Stein finds himself looking up in awe. But this is one of those moments. It’s Friday night and the 7'0" Sacramento Kings center is standing inside The Brant Foundation Center, which is hosting a private, inaugural exhibition at its 16,000-sq. ft. New York location tucked away on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Cauley-Stein is here ahead of his club’s matchup against the New York Knicks on Saturday afternoon, getting focused by immersing himself with his off-court passion: art. Right now, he’s staring in wonder—before him are 16 pieces by the iconic American street artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat, lining a wall reaching over a story high.

The depictions speak volumes to Cauley-Stein, who’s an artist away from the hardwood. He’s long-held an affinity for street art, but seeing the work of one of the most influential American street artists, in-person, is astounding. Seventy of Basquiat’s scribbled, primitive, graffiti-style paintings are being housed here, spread throughout the wide, quiet rooms of the building, which, in its closing hour, is nearly empty.

Cauley-Stein is eyeing the works along the wall, questioning how the canvases are stretched and how the placement for different designs was determined. Like Basquiat’s work, the man observing it is distinguishable, even if his unassuming demeanor would suggest otherwise; if Cauley-Stein’s height doesn’t make him stand out, the tattoos on his face, arms, hands, legs and body do. However, they are not the mark of Cauley-Stein’s art-obsession. On Instagram (@pr00fessortrill), he’s posted personal iterations of The Joker,Jimi Hendrix, a fewlandscapes, and other works, sharing a glimpse into his artistic talents.

Similar to the way artists manifest their own styles through their work, basketball players offer a varied assortment of character on the court, touting individualized skill sets, shooting forms, wardrobes and personalities. It’s within these elements of originality that Cauley-Stein finds both art and basketball to be most alike.

“You hoop with a certain expression,” he says. “That’s your art. You’ve crafted it, so it is your art.”

But it’s when Cauley-Stein is crafting his artwork, untethered from the bounds of an NBA court and the general pressures of life, that he experiences the most freedom. Something about taking in another artist’s work engenders a similar feeling.

“When you’re painting,” Cauley-Stein says, “you don’t really need to—you’re just gone. You’re just in it.”

When Cauley-Stein first started creating art, it was only drawings. But about two years ago, he estimates, his mental coach once correlated his on-court performance to a painting he had made. Ever since then, he’s grown enamored with painting, which he says provides a space to evade stress.

Now a fourth-year NBA pro, Cauley-Stein let’s inspiration dictate when he paints within the structure of an 82-game schedule. “We’re busy,” he says of NBA players, “but not as busy as y’all like to think.” The Kings hold set practices between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. After that, players are essentially free from obligation, presenting Cauley-Stein a 20-hour window. Sometimes, he’ll devoutly paint throughout an entire week, but there’s periods where he won’t paint for a week or even months. Following some games, he goes home and paints well into the night. Nevertheless, whenever he picks up a brush, there’s a sense of purpose.

At 25 years old, Cauley-Stein’s passion for art is now a vibrant flame. But as a child, it admittedly took some time to stoke. He finds it interesting whenever he’s asked if he took art classes when he was younger, admitting that he usually reverts to the same answer: His grandmother placed him in an art class when he was in third grade.

“I didn’t want to,” Cauley-Stein says. “She just kind of put me in there.”

He remembers the teacher—a woman whom his grandmother had befriended at a waterobics class—painted oils and taught him how to create landscape art. He didn’t like it until a friend joined him. Then he found it cool.

(Video) Owning the Paint: Willie Cauley-Stein Can Be the NBA's Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol

Nobody else in Cauley-Stein’s family paints or draws. He says his mom did crafts, but as far as illustrations, he’s the first to pick up the mantle.

“I wish I still had all of my old schoolwork,” he says, laughing. “I’d just have all the sketches around the schoolwork, and none of the schoolwork done. Just sketches all around. I was always doodling something.”

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The first artist Cauley-Stein became familiar with was American street artist Keith Haring, who he researched for a class project. In junior high school, he took his first "real" art class. He went on to do so every year from sixth grade through college. When he picked up painting, his first instructor was the renowned Bob Ross, whose art shows that aired on Netflix introduced Cauley-Stein to basic fundamentals.

At first, Cauley-Stein was skeptical, specifically questioning the amount of scenery depictions. But then he began to pick up the nuances of Ross’s instructions, noticing intricacies such as how a particular paintbrush tip helps create a tree.

“And it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s the freaking techniques that he’s teaching us!’” Cauley-Stein realized. “So I’m like, I’m gonna start watching more. I need to learn all these techniques because I want to start making my own concepts and things like that instead of just picking a superhero to paint.”

Though conjured out of unplanned ingenuity, Cauley-Stein’s superhero illustrations, and his other early works, are significant. They would help garner the attention of the man looking to help him take the next step in his art career.

Despite his passion for art, Cauley-Stein doesn’t boast a massive collection at home. “I have a lot of art in the house,” he says, “but it’s mine, friends’. Not necessarily—like, I didn’t spend thousands of dollars to attain it. It’s authentic, at least.”

By his own admission, Cauley-Stein hasn’t yet put himself in position to purchase art. Enter Gardy St. Fleur.

St. Fleur is a New York-based personal art adviser, private dealer and collector. The New York Times oncedescribed him as “a liaison to the art world” for the NBA’s aspiring collectors. He works with several different NBA players, teaching them not only about art, but also how to distinguish fine art from regular, understand its value, and how collecting can become a worthwhile investment.

Most of the players he’s assisted are older. His past associates include former NBA All-Stars Deron Williams and Alonzo Mourning. He’s helped current NBA veterans such as Dallas’ Courtney Lee, Houston’s PJ Tucker and Minnesota’s Jerryd Bayless. But he’s also aided younger NBA players, including Miami’s Justise Winslow and Brooklyn’s D’Angelo Russell and Caris LeVert.

“I don’t work with everybody,” St. Fleur says. “It’s some players worth working with because they’re so into it. But you want someone that really has an interest.”

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St. Fleur, the son of a Haitian art collector and commissioner, aims to enlightenthose he works with. In addition to meeting players, showing them about art galleries and connecting them with artists, he sends them books, and shares links and videos to historic illustrations, pieces and time periods. He even exchanges texts with players explaining how they can further their comprehension of art.

Players do the legwork of St. Fleur’s promotion. A player who collects art could mention how they’re involved in art collecting within the locker room, piquing the interest of a teammate. Curious to know more, they’ll inquire. It’s a word-of-mouth net that, when cast, typically reels in those with a legitimate desire to dip their toe in the currents of the art world.

Cauley-Stein’s enthusiasm for creating art was enough to suggest that a meeting with St. Fleur could prove fruitful. The two were connected through Cauley-Stein’s agency, Roc Nation Sports. Upon learning of Cauley-Stein's prior interest in art, St. Fleur saw that it would be worth a meeting.

Standing inside the hallway of the staff entrance along the side of The Whitney Museum of American Art, St. Fleur and two of his associates are awaiting the arrival of Cauley-Stein.

Around 5:15 p.m., Cauley-Stein arrives, wearing a black hoodie that reads “Seeing Things” in blue script above its hem. Four others are with him: His three friends—Rexx, who grew up with Cauley-Stein in Kansas, along with college friends Yoku and Burks, who’s filming the visit—and his manager, Caitlyn. The group converges and begins its trek through The Whitney’s Andy Warhol exhibits. A collection of works done by the American recognized for leading the pop art movement are on display here through the end of the month.

(Video) Becoming Andy Warhol | Contemporary Conversations

Almost immediately, St. Fleur is educating Cauley-Stein about the depictions they observe, raising his hands and mimicking the movement of brush strokes with his arms. Cauley-Stein is intently looking on, nodding his head in agreement. As he listens to St. Fleur’s lectures, he runs his thumb over a shiny ring on his left index finger; his right elbow rests bent to form a thinking posture, his right hand clutching his chin.

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The interaction between student and teacher is engrossing. Cauley-Stein heeds the words of St. Fleur, reflects, then poses questions of his own. Just moments into the meeting, he asks about Warhol’s silk-screening process while observing his Flowers. At no point does Cauley-Stein appear shy. He’s in his element. If not for the large group and cameras feet behind him, he would blend in with any other visitor. His lanky frame bends forward to interestedly read artworks’ descriptions, and when he sees a piece he likes, his eyes widen and his mouth opens in exacerbation. He’ll enter thought, then moments later, break his silence to crack a joke. He turns to everyone to see if they’re as amazed as him when he notices the blurry mixtures of Warhol’s Abstraction.

“To see someone that was really interested in that,” St. Fleur later says, “I was really impressed.”

About 40 minutes later, Cauley-Stein and St. Fleur have finished weaving through the Warhol exhibit. Cauley-Stein is noticeably impressed.

“I feel like you’ve gotta see this if you’re an artist,” he says.

St. Fleur has another stop for his pupil to see. While the group awaits transportation to the next venue, a teenage worker at The Whitney, approaches Cauley-Stein asking for an autograph. It’s the first and only instance of the night, which isn’t surprising to St. Fleur. He’s taken the subway with NBA players who have similarly gone unbothered while visiting art studios in Brooklyn’s Bushwick borough.

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The worker’s query doesn’t annoy Cauley-Stein. In fact, he appears delighted to chat with someone about art.

“You like Warhol?” the worker asks.

Cauley-Stein grins. “I like everything,” he responds as he signs a piece of paper.

The teen gives Cauley-Stein a recommendation, pulling out his phone to show the Brooklyn Museum’s recent “Soul of a Nation” exhibit. The interaction lasts for about a minute before Cauley-Stein must depart.

“You made his day,” Cauley-Stein is later told.

“S---," he replies, “he made mine.”

“I really want you to see Basquiat,” St. Fleur tells Cauley-Stein as they leave The Whitney.

The sun is setting over the Hudson River when the group arrives at the second venue. As everyone exits their rides, a man on the steps of the building quickly ushers them through a pair of black doors. Inside, the Brant Foundation Center, a by-appointment-only locale, is hosting its private Basquiat exhibition scheduled between March 6 and May 15.

All 50,000 tickets have been sold. But St. Fleur has brought Cauley-Stein and the others, much to the bewilderment of the gatekeeper, who later says he was only expecting two guests. Everyone files into a dark front lobby that is smaller and more intimate than The Whitney’s.

“I like this a lot more,” Cauley-Stein says.

(Video) Warhol mania taking over NYC

Moments later, he is standing in a spacious room full of Basquiat pieces. He’s compelled approaching Warrior, a sword-wielding figure depicted in front of a blue and yellow background. Later, he walks up to Anthony Clarke, a portrayal of a man wearing a grey long coat and matching hat. One of his friends jokes that the illustration could be to scale, rivaling Cauley-Stein’s height.

Initially, the look in his eyes says everything he doesn’t. But sporadically, his admiration, as well as his friends’, becomes tangible excitement in the form of delighted murmurs, chuckles, oohs and ahhs.

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Cauley-Stein, St. Fleur and the trailing entourage head down a winding black staircase leading to another room. There are no signs of fatigue. Cauley-Stein is as engaged as he’s been all night. He turns a corner behind a wall, finding Basquiat’s collection of minimized works portraying famous boxers such as Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali. He wanders to Basquiat’s Cassius Clay, a white drawing on a red background.

It’s a simple-looking work depicting a powerful subject.Cauley-Stein is fixated on the piece, as if channeling some sort of deeper connection. Then peacefully steps away.

“It’s cool learning it now,” he later says, “because I understand it. Whether I had learned this or not as a kid, I wouldn’t have understood it. Now, it’s like, OK, I can take what I just learned by walking around here and putting in my own type of feel and my own inspiration to further my artist-self. It’s crazy.”

Cauley-Stein’s trip was meant to serve as both a lesson on art as well as an introduction into art collecting and dealing, but it hasn’t convinced him to step into the game just yet.

“This is like the first time that I’ve actually even thought about art dealing or buying and trading art,” he says. “That’s something that I would obviously have to learn because there’s a lot I don’t know.”

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In the meantime, he knows that he wants to focus on developing his own artwork.

The earliest piece Cauley-Stein can recall having put on the refrigerator is a drawing of a horse. He thinks his grandmother still has it, his first “big boy” drawing. Now, he aspires to one day have his work displayed in a museum. Especially after seeing the Warhol and Basquiat exhibitions; before then, he was unsure of how to create a gallery and rearrange sizes.

“Now,” he says, “it’s kind of like, knowing what I’ve learned after this experience today, now I know how to make a gallery or set up a gallery. Or what’s the meaning behind it all, which is obviously everything.”

St. Fleur wants to give him the chance. He says Cauley-Stein has an artistry in him, and desires to do a two-piece show with him in either Los Angeles, New York, or both. He’s not sure how many illustrations they would feature yet though. They’re still in the “research phase” of the idea. In the meantime, St. Fleur is encouraging Cauley-Stein to experiment off the canvas and dabble with other mediums and methods. St. Fleur even mentioned Gutai pieces from the 1950s, hoping Cauley-Stein draws inspiration from hearing about the Japanese artists who painted with their feet.

Before the meeting, Cauley-Stein had been entertaining ambitious ideas on his own. He once created a painting of Bob Marley and a lion, and added his face tattoos to Marley’s. Since then, he’s tinkered with integrating ideas on designer clothing, one day deciding he would draw on Louis Vuitton.

“It’s like using designers as canvases,” he says.

Cauley-Stein is currently in the midst of kickstarting his collection of authentic paintings, “Addicted to Sauce.” One piece depicts a syringe being dipped into a Louis Vuitton bottle, pulling out “the sauce,” as he puts it. Another features Chanel Cs being melted down on a spoon. The symbolism of the collection serves to highlight the addictive nature of hypebeast fashion culture.

Cauley-Stein’s journey has only further inspired him to invest in his own work. The first step is to develop a catalog of his original pieces. The next is to put it on display for people to see.

Eventually, with his work, Cauley-Stein wants to incite the same fascination that he felt staring at the wall of Basquiat works just moments ago. As his tour of the Basquiat exhibit comes to a close, he stands next to one work,Untitled (Savoy, 1986),listed 94-by-136 ½ inches—or 7’10”-by-11’4 ½—as he explains his vision.

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“I want to have sizes like these,” he says, pointing.“Before, I was working on these little [pieces]. But now, after seeing this type of stuff, it’s gotta be bigger. The bigger it is, the better it’s going to look.”


Did Jean-Michel Basquiat have a relationship with Andy Warhol? ›

It became an embarrassment for the pair to then even be seen together. Basquiat soon stopped calling Warhol, and the pair ceased collaborating. Unfortunately, their relationship never really recovered. In 1987, Warhol died suddenly; Basquiat would die a year later, in 1988.

What is a famous quote from Jean-Michel Basquiat? ›

I don't listen to what art critics say. I don't know anybody who needs a critic to find out what art is.” “At that point, [an artist] was somebody who could draw, but my ideas have changed since then. Now I see an artist as something a lot broader than that.”

How much is an original Basquiat worth? ›

Jean-Michel Basquiat's iconic large-scale painting Untitled, 1982, that was offered from the collection of Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa fetched US$85 million on Wednesday evening at Phillips in New York. The winning bid—US$75 million, before fees—was placed over the phone by a collector from Taipei.

Who owns the most Basquiat's? ›

The Estate was administered by Gerard Basquiat, the late artist's father, until his passing in 2013. It is currently administered by the late artist's sisters, Jeanine Heriveaux and Lisane Basquiat.

How did Basquiat react to Warhol's death? ›

Despite this, the fact that Warhol and Basquiat were genuine friends cannot be discounted. After Warhol's death in 1987, Basquiat seriously struggled to keep up with his artistic lifestyle, turning back to his destructive behaviour, and endorsing his heroin addiction to occupy himself.

Who owns the Basquiat Warhol paintings? ›

One portrait is part of the permanent collection of The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh. American businessman Peter Brant, a major collector of both Warhol and Basquiat, owned one of the portraits. In November 2021, Brant sold his portrait at Christie's 20th Century Evening Sale for $40 million.

What is Basquiat's most famous piece? ›

Untitled (Yellow Bone King), 1982

Although Basquiat's Untitled (Yellow Bone King) stayed closer to its low estimate at Christie's New York, selling for $26 million in 2013, it was described as one of the most important contemporary artworks of today and one of the most recognized Jean Michel Basquiat's paintings.

What does the Basquiat crown represent? ›

With his signature recurring motif – the crown – the artist recognizes the majesty of his heroes: groundbreaking athletes, musicians and writers. Inspired by their accomplishments, Basquiat believed he was continuing the work of this noble lineage: he often depicts himself wearing the same crown in his self-portraits.

How do you pronounce Jean Basquiat? ›

How to Pronounce Jean-Michel Basquiat? (CORRECTLY) - YouTube

Who owns the most expensive Basquiat? ›

Untitled (Devil), 1982

In 2016, Japanese collector and e-commerce entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa purchased this epic canvas by Basquiat at Christie's for $57.3 million. Measuring more than sixteen feet wide and nearly eight feet tall, it is also one of the artist's largest canvases.

How much was Basquiat worth when he died? ›

Jean-Michel Basquiat was an artist who rose to fame within the neo-expressionist movement in the 1980s. Jean-Michel Basquiat was earning millions of dollars per year at his absolute peak. At the time of his death, including the present value of his works, Jean-Michel Basquiat had a net worth of $10 million.

How long did Madonna and Basquiat date? ›

The latest winner of the AnOther Loves vote depicts one such suprising coupling – that between Madonna and Jean-Michel Basquiat, who enjoyed a brief affair between 1982-3.

Who owns the rights to Basquiat? ›

But for the estate, which is now run by Basquiat's two younger sisters, Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux, with the help of their stepmother, Nora Fitzpatrick, the licensing is a lifeline. Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux.

What happened to Jean-Michel Basquiat mother? ›

After his parents separated that year, Basquiat and his sisters were raised by their father. His mother was committed to a psychiatric hospital when he was ten and thereafter spent her life in and out of institutions.

Who inherited Basquiat estate? ›

Now, his family, led by his sisters Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux, who run Basquiat's estate, along with their stepmother, Nora Fitzpatrick, have curated more than 200 of his paintings, drawings, multimedia presentations, ephemera, and artifacts for this special exhibition.

Why are Basquiat paintings so expensive? ›

Untitled, created when Basquiat was just 21, became the sixth most expensive work sold at auction, and the most expensive from an American and an African-American artist. The appeal of Basquiat's work has always been “a combination of raw talent, compelling biography, and limited supply" (New York Times).

Did Jean-Michel Basquiat get married? ›

Jean-Michel Basquiat was never married. Basquiat did have a couple of long-tern relationships, notably with Suzanne Mallouk and Jennifer Goode. When he died in 1988, Basquiat was living with his girlfriend, Kelle Inman.

What is Andy Warhol's most expensive painting? ›

Topline. Pop artist Andy Warhol's portrait of Marilyn Monroe is now the most expensive piece of artwork by an American artist ever sold at auction, after the colorful silk screen sold for a record-breaking $195 million including fees on Monday.

How much is a Warhol and Basquiat? ›

Andy Warhol's portrait painting of his close friend, Jean-Michel Basquiat, was the sale's most expensive lot. It was sold at US$40 million dollars, with buyer's premium. Provenance: Estate of Andy Warhol, New York.

Who bought Andy Warhol's Marilyn? ›

On Monday night at Christie's New York, Larry Gagosian lifted his hand and spent $195 million of someone's money on a single work of art, Andy Warhol's Shot Sage Blue Marilyn.

Whats the most expensive painting? ›

The Most Expensive Paintings Ever Sold

The most valuable painting in history must surely be the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. Although it is considered priceless, we can determine some numerical value by looking at the insurance value of the painting. In 1962 the masterpiece was assessed at a value of $100 million.

What do Basquiat paintings mean? ›

Others interpret the 'Basquiat crown' as a symbol of rebellion because it appears in paintings that address social and political issues, a theme that Basquiat often incorporates into his work, as he was known for being a rebellious spirit who challenged the status quo. Grillo, 1984.

Who bought the 110 million dollar painting? ›

Yusaku Maezawa, a billionaire entrepreneur, purchased the painting after a 10-minute bidding war.

What does the crown symbol mean? ›

A crown is a traditional form of head adornment, or hat, worn by monarchs as a symbol of their power and dignity. A crown is often, by extension, a symbol of the monarch's government or items endorsed by it.

What was the theme of Jean-Michel Basquiat? ›

Jean-Michel Basquiat

What do crowns mean in graffiti? ›

Crowns - king (professional, or widely known graffer that has earned a tremendouse ammount of respect and has aquired imense skill)

Is Basquiat a French name? ›

Etymology. Borrowed from French Basquiat.

Why did Basquiat create art? ›

Thematically, Basquiat drew inspiration from his upbringing and heritage. As a young Black man living in New York in the 1980s, he turned to his art to criticise the histories of colonialism and racism pertaining to African Americans.

Where does the name Basquiat come from? ›

As a first name, Basquiat is used as in honor of Jean-Michel Basquiat, the neoexpressionist whose art touched on themes of race, wealth disparity, and humanism.

Who owns the rights to Basquiat? ›

But for the estate, which is now run by Basquiat's two younger sisters, Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux, with the help of their stepmother, Nora Fitzpatrick, the licensing is a lifeline. Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux.

Who inherited Basquiat estate? ›

Now, his family, led by his sisters Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux, who run Basquiat's estate, along with their stepmother, Nora Fitzpatrick, have curated more than 200 of his paintings, drawings, multimedia presentations, ephemera, and artifacts for this special exhibition.

Who bought the 110 million dollar painting? ›

Yusaku Maezawa, a billionaire entrepreneur, purchased the painting after a 10-minute bidding war.

How much did Basquiat sell his first painting for? ›

The first painting he sold, Cadillac Moon (1981), was purchased by singer Debbie Harry for $200 in 1981. The top three Basquiat paintings at auction all date to 1982, which is considered his most valuable year.


1. A Conversation on Jean-Michel Basquiat
(Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis)
2. Basquiat Art / Why is he so famous / Death at 27
(Anastasiya SKL)
3. Brief History of Andy Warhol: Pop Art King
(Artrageous with Nate)
4. Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled Red Warrior
5. Jean-Michel Basquiat's impact on hip-hop culture
(CBS Mornings)
6. Nicolas Cage Financial Problems, Rod Stewart Filling Potholes, Andy Warhol Painting Goes to Auction
(Adam Carolla)

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