Before the name ‘Jean-Michele’ became synonymous with the pantheon of 20th century artists who revolutionized contemporary art, the young artist who came to be known as Basquiat was a struggling creative living on the lower east side of New York. 

In 1981, to help his mother pay rent, the young Basquiat agreed to design an album sleeve for his friends in the punk-ska band The Offs in exchange for $400. Simply titled First Record, Basquiat’s design for the album included some of the earliest examples of the symbolic ‘Crown’ motif which would come to define his most recognizable works – in this case, depicted as a cartoon-like, black-and-white totemic figure standing atop a triangular mound with a crown of thorns hovering above his head. The punk band’s name appears written in Basquiat’s signature scrawl in three spots. 

Today, original copies of the album sell for thousands of dollars.

More than three decades after its original release, the album, simply titled First Record, is being reissued as a limited edition of 500 by the legendary rock promoter Johnny Brower, who owns the rights to the album, in conjunction with California’s White Cross Art. Limited edition screen prints are also being offered of the original artwork, which sold at Sotheby’s for more than $300,000 in 2011.

“The reissue is important as it celebrates a milestone in both the career of Basquiat and The Offs,” Brower says. “While the band is no longer a functioning entity, they played a seminal role in the downtown scene in the early 80s in New York. They were close friends not only with Basquiat, but also with Andy Warhol, Patti Astor, and many of the musicians and artists who haunted the Lower East Side in search of the miraculous.

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