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Who was Jean-Michel Basquiat?

Jean-Michel Basquiat was an American artist born in 1960 in Brooklyn, New York. His father was from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and his mother was of Puerto Rican lineage. From 11, he could speak and read in English, French, and Spanish. He was exceptionally artistically inclined and a Junior Brooklyn Museum member.

In 1968, Basquiat was hit by a car. His mother bought him the “Gray’s Anatomy (1858) publication. These illustrations would later play a large part in his art subject matter.

In 1978, he collaborated with Al Diaz and began spray painting buildings under the moniker SAMO (Same Old Shit). In 1983, Basquiat found his way into the circle of former Met curator Henry Geldzahler. A discussion between the two labeled the now-famous key elements of Basquiat’s work as royalty, heroism, and the streets. As a result, he emerged as a significant force in unifying street art with painting and bridging the gap between high and low art. By the time Jean -Michel Basquiat died at 27 in 1988, he had become one of the top artists working in New York.

Basquiat Isn’t for Everyone

Basquiat RoomJean-Michel Basquiat’s work features skulls and anatomical drawings inspired by the copy of Gray’s Anatomy his mother gave to him in 1968. His collection may appear quite juvenile when you first view it, but there is tremendous depth and forethought in each scribble and line made by the artist.

“He may have been one of the most successful young artists of the 20th century, but his work was imbued with the spirit of a young man beyond his years.” –

A year after Basquiat’s death, Herbert and Lenore Schorr offered the Museum of Modern Art in New York a Basquiat paintin g from their collection as a gift. The museum replied, “that having a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat was not worth even the cost of the storage.”

He painted in media like oil paints, acrylics, and spray paints. He painted on various surfaces like canvas, linen, and wood and did not let the world forget his roots: spray painting buildings. He created around 600 paintings and over 1000 drawings.