A detail of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (1981) seen under normal light (at left) and under UV light (right), where a second invisible-ink arrow appears to the lower-left of the crown. Photo: ©Longevity Art Preservation via artnet News

Some of the world’s most iconic artists have always held an elusive and mysterious quality about them, and in the case of the well-documented Jean-Michel Basquiat, it seems that not even his death in the late ’80s has held back his ability to make headlines today. First reported via artnet Newsthe world is looking to his 1981 “Untitled” painting, which has recently had secret drawings uncovered within the work.

According to the report, New York art conservator Emily Macdonald-Korth was tasked with finding the exact date of Basquiat’s work Untitled for a client. Taking technical photographs and viewing the work under infrared and UV lights, to her surprise she found something much more exciting than a mere date, rather secret drawings created in invisible ink.

“I start looking at this thing and I see these arrows,” Macdonald-Korth told artnet News. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said. “He basically did a totally secret part of this painting.”

A detail of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (1981) seen under normal light (at left) and under UV light (right), where an arrow appears between the letters “E” and “P.” Photo: ©Longevity Art Preservation via artnet News

When the lights were switched on, the conservator witnessed two arrows drawn in black-light crayon identical to other arrows drawn visibly on the canvas with red and black oil sticks. This isn’t the first time the artist has incorporated this sort of “secret” messaging, with Sotheby’s London in 2012 discovering that his painting Orange Sports Figure from 1982, had his signature written in a similar invisible-ink.

It is not known if this technique was simply intended as an underlying guide for the painting, or whether it was an extra element to his graffiti-inspired artwork. Macdonald-Korth did believe that, “there’s a history there, having something secret there,” she said. “He must have been playing with a UV flashlight and thought, ‘this is cool.’ It really relates to his use of erasure.”

thoughts?