Jean-Michel Basquiat

b. 1960

Biography

Jean-Michel Basquiat (December 22, 1960 – August 12, 1988) was an American artist who rose to prominence in the 1980s as part of the Neo-expressionism movement.

Basquiat first gained notoriety in the late 1970s as part of the graffiti duo SAMO, along with Al Diaz, writing enigmatic epigrams across Manhattan, especially in the Lower East Side where rap, punk, and street art blended into early hip-hop culture. By the early 1980s, his paintings were exhibited in galleries and museums internationally. At 21, Basquiat became the youngest artist to participate in Documenta in Kassel, Germany. At 22, he became one of the youngest to exhibit at the Whitney Biennial in New York. In 1992, the Whitney Museum of American Art held a retrospective of his work.

Basquiat’s art focused on dichotomies such as wealth versus poverty, integration versus segregation, and inner versus outer experience. He incorporated poetry, drawing, and painting, combining text and image, abstraction and figuration, as well as historical information with contemporary critique. His paintings used social commentary as a tool for introspection and connection with his experiences in the black community, as well as critiques of power structures and racism.

Since his death at the age of 27 in 1988, Basquiat’s work has steadily increased in value. In 2017, his painting “Untitled,” depicting a black skull with red and yellow rivulets, sold for a record-breaking $110.5 million, making it one of the most expensive paintings ever purchased.

Works

Jean-Michel Basquiat

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Flash In Naples, 1990

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