A Day in Milan, Lisa Ponti and Basquiat

In 1983, Domus’ legendary art editor and director met the New York street art star: identity, music, art in a close dialogue, on an autumn day at Parco Sempione.

Early 80s Italy was literally traversed by a bustle of artists from the post-pop, street art, Afrofuturist New York scenes: Keith Haring collaborated with Fiorucci set up his solo show in Milan in 1984, Rammelzee traveled the peninsula between 1983 and 1986, and by late 1983 a group show was held in Milan, at Salvatore and Caroline Ala’s gallery,  where Tony Shafrazi brought, among others, Haring, Kenny Scharf, Ronnie Cutrone and Jean Michel Basquiat. Basquiat himself that year had recently made his leap from rising star of the East Village scene – video guest for Blondie and film star for Edo Bertoglio – to internationally renowned artist, the symbol of an entire culture. It was there that Lisa Licitra Ponti, one day in October at Parco Sempione, met him and had a dense exchange of thoughts that suddenly took a somehow aphoristic value. Domus would then publish this dialogue in January 1984, on issue 646.

Domus 646, January 1984


 “Walking on sunshine”, L.L.P.: talking with Jean-Michel Basquiat in the Parco Sempione, Milan, October 9, 1983.

In New York do you spend any time in the park, like today, sitting...
No, hardly ever.

How many times have you been in Italy?
Nine times, ten times.

When you think of Italian painting you think of...

The modern Italians you like?
Cucchi and Clemente.

The Americans?
Franz Kline, Norman Rockwell, Henry Ford, Wendel Wilkie.

The books you read?
The Bible. I read it sometimes.

The old testament or both?

Miles Davis.

I don’t know much about it.

You look at it?
I do, I just look.

You are seldom alone, very often with people.
I am trying to be more alone now, ya.

You make music?
I produce records, I did one rap record. Now I am working on an African drum album.

Which works you make in collaboration with other artists?
I am doing one now, but it’s a secret.

You like this kind of nomadic life? two continents, different towns?
Very much.

You have nostalgia for anything?
For everything. But just the objects, not the people of periods, just the objects.

You like to be called The Black Picasso?
Not so much. It’s flattering, but I think it is also demeaning.

Do you think you are lucky?
Talented, too.

What do you think of the critics who say art is dead?
When they were making Dada, when Picasso was around... the same stuff about art being dead. Those guys are outside of art, you know, they aren't in it, you know what I mean? Too much free dinners, for them, you know?, they drink cheap wine at the openings, they get drunk, and they get nasty...

you know?...

Which are the people you like to discuss art with?
I don’t like to discuss art at all.

Domus 646, January 1984

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