Jean Michel Basquiat
Jean-Michel Basquiat, (1960-1988)

Jean-Michel Basquiat had his artistic beginnings as a New York City graffiti artist but gained international fame for his colorful works of art that incorporated an array of words and images and oftentimes served as a form of social critique. He was born on December 22, 1960 in Brooklyn, New York to a Haitian father and a mother of Puerto Rican descent. Early in his childhood, Basquiat displayed a proficiency in art which was encouraged by his mother. In 1977, Basquiat, along with friend Al Diaz began spray painting cryptic aphorisms on subway trains and around lower Manhattan and signing them with the name SAMO©. The following year, he left home and dropped out of high school just one year prior to graduating. To make a living, Basquiat created and sold hand-painted postcards and T-shirts. In June of 1980, Basquiat's art was publicly exhibited for the first time in a show sponsored by Colab (Collaborative Projects Incorporated) along with the work of Jenny Holzer, Lee Quinones, Kenny Scharf, Kiki Smith and other prominent contemporary artists. Following this show, Basquiat exhibited his work around New York City and also in Europe, participating in shows with artists like Keith Haring and Barbara Kruger.

In December of 1981, poet and artist Rene Ricard published the first major article on Basquiat entitled "The Radiant Child" in Artforum. In 1982, Basquiat was featured in the group show "Transavanguardia: Italia/America." In the following two years, Basquiat had one-artist exhibitions at the galleries of Annina Nosei and Larry Gagosian and was also included in the "1983 Biennial Exhibition" at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Around this time, Basquiat was befriended by Andy Warhol, a relationship which sparked discussion concerning white patronization of black art, an issue that persists when examining Basquiat's life and work. Basquiat and Warhol collaborated on a number of paintings and their relationship continued until Warhol's death in 1987.

By 1984, many of Basquiat's friends had become concerned about his excessive drug use, often finding him unkempt and in a state of paranoia. However, he continued to exhibit his work and appear in magazines, posing on the cover of The New York Times Magazine, for an article titled "New Art, New Money: The Marketing of an American Artist." Between 1986 and 1988 Basquiat had shows in Abidjan on the Ivory Coast, and again in Paris and New York. More than sixty of his paintings and drawings headlined at an exhibition at the Kestner-Gesellschaft Museum in Hannover, Germany, making Basquiat, then 25, the youngest artist ever to hold an exhibition there. Despite his success, Basquiat still struggled with drug addiction and died on August 12, 1988 from a heroin overdose at the age of 27. Although his artistic career was brief, Basquiat rose to international acclaim during his life and created prolific and socially conscious works of art. A movie about the artist was created in 1996, directed by Julian Schnabel, a neo-expressionist with whom Basquiat exhibited.
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