Jean-Michel Basquiat was an American artist of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent. Born on December 22, 1960 in Brooklyn, NY, Basquiat never finished high school but developed an appreciation for art as a youth, from his many visits to the Brooklyn Museum of Art with his mother.
Basquiat first achieved fame as part of SAMO, an informal duo consisting of he and his friend, fellow graffiti artist Al Diaz, who wrote arcane epigrams all over the area of Loisada in Manhattan, a cultural hotbed in New York during the late 70’s.
After quickly rising to celebrity, stellar status at the early age of 24, he was befriended by many celebrities and artists, including Andy Warhol, with whom he made several collaborative works.
“If you wanna talk about influence, man, then you’ve got to realize that influence is not influence. It’s simply someone’s idea going through my new mind.” – Jean-Michel Basquiat
His paintings are largely responsible for elevating graffiti artists into the realm of the New York art gallery scene. His spray-painted crowns and scribbled words, referenced everything from his heritage, to political issues, pop-culture icons, and biblical verse. The gestural marks and expressive nature of his work was on parr with the street art of Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf, but also the Neo-Expressionists Julian Schnabel and David Salle.
At 27, Jean-Michel Basquiat died of a heroin overdose at his art studio, August 12, 1988 in New York. Gone too young and way to soon, The Whitney Museum of American Art held the artist’s first retrospective 5 years later from October 1992 to February 1993. In 2017, after having set Basquiat’s auction record the previous year with a $57.3 million purchase, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa surpassed himself, by buying the artist’s Untitled (1982) at Sotheby’s for $110.5 million, notably setting the record for the highest price ever paid at auction for an American artist’s work.
You will find an abundance of Basquiat’s works in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Rubell Family Collection in Miami, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, among others.
VIDEO: Jean-Michel Basquiat’s sisters, in charge of his estate, talk about his life and legacy.
… but you came here for the art …
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