Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat


Jean-Michel Basquiat is one of the most well-known and notable names in modern art. Basquiat was born in December 1960, in Brooklyn New York. Sadly, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s untimely death was part of what helped further catapult him to fame and notoriety. He died in August of 1988, at the young age of 27, in his apartment, from a drug overdose.

Basquiat is most known for his groundbreaking work as a graffiti artist, and also as an innovative painter. He was also known for an unencumbered and loose style of painting, which is most often associated with modern street art, which begin to gain popularity in the 1980s. Furthermore, Jean-Michel Basquiat was known for his provocative arrangement and positioning of his subjects, coupled with various text, images and icons that tackled such touchy subjects as heritage, culture, and race.

Basquiat’s early life was marred with setbacks and tragedy. At the young age of eight, a car stuck him, leaving him with multiple internal injuries and landing him in the hospital for an extended period of time. To keep him occupied and entertained while in the hospital, his mother brought him the well-known drawing book, Grey’s Anatomy. Basquiat enjoyed diving into the work, and enjoyed it throughout his hospital stay. Sadly, shortly after he was released from the hospital, his parents split up. After the split, Basquiat and his siblings were living with their father, and moved to Puerto Rico for a while. It was here that Basquiat tried running away for the first time, although he was soon found and picked up by the police, and then returned home.

Later, Jean-Michel Basquiat attended the innovative and progressive City as School program, which focused heavily on culture. It was here that Basquiat discovered and nurtured his intrigue for cartoon drawings and comings, and also graffiti. One of the characters that Basquiat created while still in high school was SAMO. Although Basquiat never graduated from high school, he continued working and developing his SAMO character. When it comes to the development of SAMO, there are several interesting and unique theories of how the name came about, but SAMO continued to make appearances throughout the works of Basquiat, including graffiti on the walls of New York’s subway system and also on the buildings in SoHo and the East Village, especially around the School of Visual Art.

By this point in time, the SAMO character had become infamous, and was featured in publications such as the Village Voice and the SoHo News. Fans of Basquiat’s work included now famous artists such as Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf. As a result, they, too, began to take their art to the streets, further continuing the art form. It was this exchange that perhaps led to Jean-Michel Basquiat artwork moving from subway walls to a canvas. During this period of transition, from street art to gallery art, Basquiat experienced a level and type of fame that was practically unheard of for visual artists. Basquiat reveled in the experienced, and enjoyed the attention. He was quickly becoming one of “the” artists in downtown New York.

Basquiat produced collaborations with some of the most famous artists of the time, including Andy Warhol. His work continued to flourish through the early 1980s. An interesting thing to note is Basquiat’s use of text in his works, which are used as an important component in his work.

His work continued to develop and transition, until his untimely death in 1988 that shocked the entire art world and caused further critical engagement of his personal and his body of work. To learn more about Basquiat, including his life and his works, there are numerous biographies that have been written about the artist. One of the works that is said to most closely resemble the true spirit of the artist is Radiant Child, by Tamra Davis.

About Hamilton-Selway

Hamilton-Selway Fine Art has continued to thrive, since its founding nearly 15 years ago as one of the largest purveyors of contemporary and pop art on all of the West Coast. Our philosophy is simple: we strive to provide our clients with the finest collection of artwork possible, and at the best price point. Our clientele ranges from the completely novice art collector to the most seasoned collectors and art galleries all around the world.

Our experienced gallery staff is ready to turn all of your art wishes a reality. Whether you are interested in procuring a piece of Basquiat’s artwork or an edition print, we are here to help. Find out why so many clients have trusted us over the years, and let us show you how this process can be fun and fulfilling. Call or connect with us online today!