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(1960 – 1988), USA

Jean-Michel Basquiat Biography

Enigmatic American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat was part of a new generation of pop artists coming from the streets of Brooklyn to the institutional art scene in the 1980s. The former street artist's neo-expressionist paintings and drawings with incorporated textual elements provide biting social commentary and critique on issues of race, class, and identity.

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Born in 1960 to a Haitian father and mother of Puerto Rican heritage, Jean-Michel Basquiat grew up in Brooklyn, making art and mischief in equal measure. Although he never attended art school, he drew upon the influences of New York's public galleries, comics, cartoons, music—namely jazz, punk, and hip hop as it emerged—religious imagery, and a medical encyclopedia his mother bought for him while he recuperated from being hit by a car at age seven.

Before his expressionistic drawings and paintings propelled him to international fame, Jean-Michel Basquiat was part of the graffiti duo SAMO along with his childhood friend Al Diaz. They were responsible for cryptic symbols and phrases spray-painted on buildings across Manhattan's Upper East Side.

Through strategic self-promotion, including leaving his SAMO mark—later revealed at the opportune moment to be his doing—close to galleries around SoHo, and selling postcards of his work, Jean-Michel Basquiat drew attention from the art world.

Making his first major debut at the Time Square Show (1980) run by Collaborative Projects Incorporated and Fashion Moda, Jean-Michel Basquiat attracted the attention of Italian gallerist Emilio Mazzoli. Holding his first solo show at Galleria d'Arte Emilio Mazzoli in Modena, Italy in 1981, Basquiat joined the ranks of other artists such as Futura 2000 and Keith Haring, who were bringing street style into the galleries in the 1980s.

Remaining consistent through his career—apart from changes to his material and working attire attributable to his rising fortunes—Jean-Michel Basquiat's characteristic style was frenetic, shouting at the viewer through countless layers of expressive lines, images, and text.

He painted with an intense, free-flowing energy compulsively scattering the source materials on his mind across several works, all while donning paint-splattered designer suits. His materials were oil sticks, crayons, spray paint, and pencil on discarded wood scraps and, later, canvas.

Jean-Michel Basquiat drew inspiration from a diverse library of thought, encompassing the art historical canon, experiences of contemporary society, poetry, music, pop culture, and books. His themes bring together discussions of history with expressions of contemporary racial oppression and conflict in the United States.

As he worked, the artist pulled quotes from menus, comic books, and textbooks scattered across his studio, which he recontextualised in Cy Twombly-like fashion, superimposing imagery in a disjointed manner.

In 1983, Basquiat met famed pop artist Andy Warhol, who he collaborated with for several years; Warhol reproducing popular imagery and familiar symbols in his characteristic style, which the younger artist then added to, his imagery and marks concealing the original work.

Over the course of his meteoric rise to art-world fame, Basquiat's work featured in group and solo exhibitions in galleries and art institutions across the globe. This and his music and poetry garnered celebrity status.

His explosive career, tragically cut short at the age of 27 by drug overdose in 1988, has been the subject of numerous retrospectives, including at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1992, the Brooklyn Museum in 2005, and the Brandt Foundation in 2019. His work has soared in commercial and cultural value in the decades since his passing.

Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2020

Jean-Michel Basquiat Featured Artworks

Skateboard Triptych Skull by Jean-Michel Basquiat contemporary artwork
Jean-Michel BasquiatSkateboard Triptych Skull, 20147-Ply Canadian Maple Wood
31 x 8 x 0.5 cm
Gin Huang Gallery Contact Gallery
Untitled (Head) by Jean-Michel Basquiat contemporary artwork
Jean-Michel BasquiatUntitled (Head), 1983Graphite and oilstick on paper
99.7 x 70.5 cm
Lévy Gorvy Contact Gallery
Untitled (Triptych) by Jean-Michel Basquiat contemporary artwork
Jean-Michel BasquiatUntitled (Triptych), 1981Graphite on paper, unique
45.7 x 61 cm
Gallery Fifty One Contact Gallery
Untitled (Two Heads on Gold) by Jean-Michel Basquiat contemporary artwork
Jean-Michel BasquiatUntitled (Two Heads on Gold), 1982Acrylic and oil paintstick on canvas,
203.2 x 317.5 cm
Gagosian Contact Gallery
Le Hara by Jean-Michel Basquiat contemporary artwork
Jean-Michel BasquiatLe Hara, 1981Acrylic and oil paintstick on canvas,
212.5 x 183 cm
Gagosian Contact Gallery
Untitled (Julius Caesar on Gold) by Jean-Michel Basquiat contemporary artwork
Jean-Michel BasquiatUntitled (Julius Caesar on Gold), 1981Acrylic and oil paintstick on canvas,
127 x 127 cm
Gagosian Contact Gallery
Untitled by Jean-Michel Basquiat contemporary artwork
Jean-Michel BasquiatUntitled, 1981Acrylic, oil stick and pencil on canvas,
182.9 x 152.4 cm
Gagosian Contact Gallery

Jean-Michel Basquiat Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Robert Fraser’s Groovy Arts Club Band at Gazelli Art House, London
Closed
11 January–23 February 2019 Group Exhibition Robert Fraser’s Groovy Arts Club Band Gazelli Art HouseLondon

Jean-Michel Basquiat Represented By

Gin Huang Gallery contemporary art gallery in Taichung City, Taiwan Gin Huang Gallery Taichung City

Jean-Michel Basquiat In Ocula Magazine

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How Keith Haring Acquired the Painting Sotheby’s Priced at Just $100 Ocula News How Keith Haring Acquired the Painting Sotheby’s Priced at Just $100 New York, 8 September 2020

David Bowes distinctly remembers the day he traded paintings with the iconic New York artist.

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The Basquiat Behind Art Dealer Inigo Philbrick's Indictment Ocula News The Basquiat Behind Art Dealer Inigo Philbrick's Indictment New York, 17 July 2020

The wunderkind dealer was denied bail in a New York court this week.

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Sotheby's Kickstarts Big Auction Season for Joan Mitchell Ocula News Sotheby's Kickstarts Big Auction Season for Joan Mitchell New York, 1 July 2020

The American painter sold well during her lifetime, but it's only in recent years that her prices have begun to catch up to those of her peers.

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How Auction Houses are Approaching Their Crucial Summer Sales Ocula News How Auction Houses are Approaching Their Crucial Summer Sales New York, 25 June 2020

Sotheby's, Christie's, Phillips and Bonham's have changed what they're selling and how they're selling it for major auctions taking place over the next two weeks.

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Jean-Michel Basquiat In Related Press

Painting From the 1980s, When Brash Met Flash Related Press Painting From the 1980s, When Brash Met Flash 12 February 2017, The New York Times

In New York at the end of the 1970s, many people thought painting was all washed up. And if not washed up, it had to be abstract—the more austere, unemotional and geometric, the better. Then came the 1980s and a generation of young painters, like Julian Schnabel, David Salle, Eric Fischl, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, and...

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The first major UK Basquiat exhibition is coming Related Press The first major UK Basquiat exhibition is coming 6 October 2016, Dazed

Jean Michel-Basquiat is a name synonymous with New York’s art scene in the 80s. A cultural movement so strong that memories of it have become mythological. It’s surprisingly then that not a single work of the art prodigy’s is held in a public UK collection. There has also, in the 28 years since his death, never been a major...

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Basquiat’s former home and studio gets a permanent plaque Related Press Basquiat’s former home and studio gets a permanent plaque 16 July 2016, Hyperallergic

Yesterday, a permanent plaque was unveiled outside the former home and studio of Jean-Michel Basquiat at 57 Great Jones Street in Manhattan. The marker is part of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation’s (GVSHP) Historic Plaque Program, a partnership with local pizza business Two Boots. Basquiat lived and worked in the...

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Paving The Way For Artists Related Press Paving The Way For Artists 10 December 2014, Lee Woo-young for the Korea Herald / 5 December 2014

On display in the private office of Lee Hyun-sook on the top floor of her gallery in Seoul are items from some of the most significant contemporary exhibitions in Korea over the last couple of years. The small space overlooking Gyeongbokgung Palace is ultramodern, with a sculpture by Anish Kapoor, a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat and a glass...

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