Jeffrey Deitch Wants a Basquiat in the White House

By
Photo: Patrick McMullan

While Barack Obama continues to put together his Cabinet in Washington, the downtown dealer Jeffrey Deitch and some of his art-world colleagues are working to install one of their own at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: Jean-Michel Basquiat. "We want to get a great Basquiat painting in the White House," Deitch said last night at the opening of "Flowers for Baudelaire," Terence Koh's new show. "I want to use whatever connections to get a super-outstanding Basquiat in the White House. It could be one of mine. It could be something that a friend owns." Already the dealer is pulling strings through friends who worked on the campaign, which features a national arts-policy committee that includes New York art figures like Chuck Close and Agnes Gund. "We're making inquiries, but it's premature," he says. Aside from the obvious fact that Obama and Basquiat are both black, are there any other resonances between the two men that make the pairing appropriate? "No, no, no," said Deitch, a longtime friend and dealer of Basquiat who delivered the eulogy after the artist overdosed in 1988. "He's just one of our great artists who just continues to inspire, and it would be a great symbol to have a work of Basquiat in the White House."