Dustheads is a painting completed in 1982, by Jean-Michel Basquiat while he was at the height of his incredible yet short career.
It is an ambitious piece, almost seven feet high, that Basquiat created using acrylics, oil stick, spray enamel and metallic paint on canvas.
The piece shows two stick-like figures against a black background, a few lines hint at a possible sidewalk. One figure dominates the picture, painted in bright red, waving his hands and arms above his head.
The figure's eyes are like saucers and filled with concentric circles that make the eyes appear as if spinning. It appears to be grinning. The second figure appears less animated, yet its eyes are also enlarged with the concentric circles. Both faces appear mask like overall.
The use of vivid colours, bold brushstrokes and confusing lines give the painting a sense of chaos, urgency and movement. According to fellow artist and close friend of Basquiat, "Toxic", Basquiat painted situations, conversations and things that were going on around him.
Toxic recalls that two people in their circle of friends were using the drug PCP or Angel dust at the time. Sometimes their behavior was "amusing" other times it could be problematic. Hence the painting Dustheads, a slang term for users of PCP or Angel dust, refers to two characters high on the drug.
Basquiat's Dustheads hit the headlines in 2013 when it sold at auction for $48.8 million, smashing through the estimated figures it was likely to achieve. It was later revealed to have been purchased by Malaysian financier, Jho Low, although it seems that he has since had to sell a number of items from his art collection at a loss.
Yet another of Basquiat's untitled paintings from 1982 has exceeded this amazing record, selling for $57.3million. International Specialist of Post War and Contemporary Art, Loic Gouzer commented that Basquiat was the "creative leader of his generation" , certainly the figures achieved for his work seem to confirm this.
Gouzer also likened Basquiat's artistic "freedom and irreverence" to Jackson Pollock's. In some ways, Basquiat worked much like Pollock, dripping paint and smearing or massaging paint with his fingers onto his pieces. Basquiat also worked quickly, applying spray paint rapidly, using well-honed skills from his street-art days.
Basquiat's incredible career was cut short when he died of a heroin overdose at 27. Dustheads is a remarkable piece, brimming with energy and emotion that only this young artist could express.