JMB BY Jeannette Montgomery Barron

Written By:

Jeannette Montgomery Barron’s new, limited-edition coffee table tome brings together a series of her most remarkable portraits portraying Jean-Michel Basquiat alongside Andy Warhol in 1984 and ’85. Unfurling across 64 pages of pure, visual bliss, it’s an intimate perception of the wunderkind and the master immortalised in black and white, entitled JMB (a playful interpretation of both Basquiat and Barron’s initials). It opens with a poignant introductory essay by Italian contemporary artist Francesco Clemente, and upon flipping through, you’ll find a previously unseen artwork by Basquiat too, as well as Barron’s sincere, no-nonsense commentary on the riveting era of his greatest successes.

In December 1894, the American photographer’s deft eye led to an invitation from Bruno Bischofberger to visit his Great Jones Street studio in New York City where she would photograph the late and great Basquiat. There, with only a birdcage, a chair and an unfinished painting as props, she captured the burgeoning artist in what would be his first sitting. Barron shot three rolls of 120 film, capturing 36 sentimental, grayscale images. Tinkering with light, shadows and dreamlike elegance, the artist himself became the artwork. That following spring, Barron returned to photograph Basquiat and Warhol in tandem, capturing 36 further portraits during the pair’s infamous painting collaboration at The Factory in 1985.

Part of an impressive compendium of portraits lensed by Barron that depict some of the most celebrated personalities from New York City’s underground arts, music, writing, fashion and film scenes during the ’80s – as they “played together, worked together, made their own rules, and changed our culture, as we know it, forever,” – the portraits published in JMB have never been seen before.

The book, which launched last Thursday, collates the complete sittings of the vanguard duo, with six contact sheets, 24 large-format photos, and comes signed by Barron herself. Clemente says, “Jeannette Montgomery Barron is an elegant woman and an elegant photographer. She conveys the widest range of expressivity with the minimum amount of means. The secret of her good luck is that she travels light.”

Photography by Jeannette Montgomery Barron. ‘JMB’ is designed and published by NJG, available here.