The Offs First Record
Cover By Jean-Michel Basquiat
Cash Honey is honored to represent this rare work of art by Jean-Michel Basquiat in partnership with Venice Modern Art.
"The moment graffiti met punk."
David Ferguson, Impresario, CD PRESENTS, Record Company President
A Brief History of the Work
A year after the release of “Beat Bop” (Rammellzee, K-Rob) in 1983, Basquiat was involved in another record cover, this time for seminal punk rock outfit The Offs.
Basquiat illustrated the work for the album cover for his friends, The Offs, a Punk/ Ska band originally from San Francisco. The band moved to New York and soon became a regular act at underground venues such as The Mudd Club and Max’s Kansas City, which were popular with artists in the East Village scene.
With the help of their friend Andy Warhol, the band was signed by San Francisco punk label, CD Presents, and their first record was released in 1984. David Ferguson, President of CD Presents, chose to reverse the original image done in blue and black oil stick, to white on black, keeping more in line with the punk sensibility of the times.
In Basquiat’s typical Neo-Expressionist, primitive, instructions-infused style, the artist repeats the band’s name three times in the composition, placing the album’s simple title at the bottom. Using images and symbols found throughout his work during the 1981-1983 period, in The Offs First Record, raw oil stick lines delineating the body extend to form a crown of thorns above the skull. This same imagery is also found in a cycle of totemic figures realized during this early period: perhaps emphasizing the band’s role as hero or martyr caught in the travails of the then shifting cultural landscape, as Basquiat too saw his career experiencing this same shifting landscape.
The San Francisco Chronicle referred to Ferguson as the "godfather of the unorthodox", adding that Ferguson "...not only thinks outside the box — he crushes it, dances on top of it, reinvents it and calls it whatever he likes. He has spent his life making trouble." The East Bay Express wrote, "David Ferguson's life story reads like an encyclopedia of the underground."
In 2007, David Ferguson and CD Presents were preparing a 1000 copy Limited Edition reissue for 2009 in celebration of the 25th Anniversary of the original record released in 1984. Due to the financial crisis of 2008 which devastated many businesses, including CD Presents, the release was canceled and the records remained stored in a warehouse.
In 2015, John Brower of Venice Modern Art, who was a longtime friend of David Ferguson, purchased the entire inventory and rights to the record cover art by Basquiat from CD Presents. Both the records and screen prints were then showcased and made available at The Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto for the 2015 Basquiat exhibition Now’s The Time.
Three years later, the vinyls were available exclusively at Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris during the Jean-Micheal Basquiat exhibition from October 3 2018-January 21 2019, and that same year at The Brant Foundation in New York for the Jean-Micheal Basquiat exhibition from March 6 2019-May 15 2019.
In June of 2019 the records were available at The Guggenheim during Basquiat’s “Defacement”: The Untold Story from June 21-November 6, 2019.
Most recently, the vinyl was featured in The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for the exhibition Seeing Loud: Basquiat and Music from October 15 2022-February 19 2023.
The original blue and black oil stick illustration by Basquiat for the band The Offs sold for $302,500 (lot 579, sale 8792) in the Sotheby’s Contemporary Day Auction, November 10, 2011.
This lot was accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity from the Authentication Committee by The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Excerpts taken from:
Art Record Covers, Taschen 2017
Fondation Louis Vuitton/Jean-Michel Basquiat 2018
English FLV Gallimard