He continues to be an inspiration to us all!
An American artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat was born in Brooklyn, NY on December 22, 1960. He saw success in his early 20s, starting out as a graffiti artist with Al Diaz. Tagged SAMO, they sprayed bold statements such as “9 to 5 Clone” and “Playing Art With Daddy’s Money” for everyone in Lower Manhattan to see. Graduating from street art to galleries, Basquiat was well aware of the racism in the art world. Producing approximately a thousand paintings and two thousand drawings, he integrated critique of a world that both “celebrated and tokenized” him. He often used his work to directly call out injustices and hypocrisies.
Dying at the early age of 27 in 1988, Basquiat’s work continues to share the stories of the Black experience. From celebrating Black culture to highlighting the evils of white supremacy, his art lives on. Here are 7 inspiring things everyone should know about Jean-Michel Basquiat:
1. His crown represents his adoration for Black male figures.
“The crown, Basquiat’s signature artistic motif, both acknowledged and challenged the history of Western art. By adorning Black male figures, including athletes, musicians and writers, with the crown, Basquiat raised these historically disenfranchised artists to royal even saintly stature.” ‘Jean-Michel’s crown has three peaks, for his three royal lineages: the poet, the musician, the great boxing champion,’ said his friend artist Francesco Clemente.
2. He produced a rap record.
He produced a record with Rammellzee and K Robb titled Beat Bop (1983) and designed the cover for the single.
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3. Basquiat was considered one of the leading figures of Neo-Expressionism.
Neo-expressionism was an art movement that reasserted the primacy of the human figure in contemporary art. In 1996, fellow Neo-Expressionist Schnabel directed a biopic of the artist’s tumultuous life with Jeffrey Wright starring as Basquiat and David Bowie as Warhol.
4. He was the youngest artist to ever exhibit at Documenta.
“In 1982, at the age of 21, he became the youngest artist to ever exhibit at Documenta in Kassel, Germany, when nearly 60 of his paintings were featured at the esteemed exhibition.”
5. In the spring of 2018, his work became the most ever paid for an American artist at an auction.
The Brooklyn Museum hosted One Basquiat, an exhibition devoted solely to the artist’s record-breaking Untitled (1982), which was purchased at Sotheby’s by Japanese collector Yusaku Maezawa for $110.5 million dollars — the most ever paid for an American artist at auction.
6. Basquiat’s first painting was sold for only $200.
“In 1980, he appeared in music video for Blondie’s song ‘Rapture.’ It was lead singer Debbie Harry and her boyfriend Chris Stein who bought Basquiat’s first painting for a mere $200.”
7. By the age of eleven, Jean-Michel Basquiat spoke three languages.
Born to a Puerto Rican mother and a Haitian father, Basquiat spoke English, French and Spanish.
Happy birthday, Basquiat!
Photo Credit: New York Post / Mr. Bango Bandcamp