Jean-Michel Basquiat (December 22, 1960 – August 12, 1988) was born and raised in Brooklyn, the son of a Haitian-American father and a Puerto Rican mother. His career as a graffiti artist and musician was fostered in the 1980’s New York Art Scene. Under the pseudonym SAMO he’d leave poetical messages impregnated on city walls… “Plush safe he think’… ‘SAMO as an alternative to the bourgeois”. With his crowning of trademark dreadlocks, Basquiat was a regular downtown fixture – he’d go on to become one of the most important artists of the 20th century.
Jean-Michel is credited with introducing graffiti into the realm of fine art. His paintings are often described as childlike; dealing with human anatomy, dense imagery, and his African-American heritage. The mixture of Afrocentric themes with graffiti, anchored on canvas with his esoteric texts and symbols was unconventional and hard to ignore.
His genius trapped in a burgeoning art movement set on ‘crazed’ did nothing to help slow down the excesses he became a victim of. At the age of twenty-seven he was found dead of a drug overdose in his Great Jones loft…the Radiant Child had left his canvassed works behind screaming at the world, their many faces torturing and riveting, like his legacy. The Whitney Museum of American Art held the first retrospective of his work from October 1992 to February 1993, and in 2016 his large canvas Untitled (1982) broke auction records with a final price of $57.3 million.
“He disrupted the politics of the art world and insisted that if he had to play their games, he would make the rules. His images entered the dreams and museums of the exploiters, and the world would never be the same.” – Keith Haring
Basquiat is sometimes more commonly talked of in the context of celebrity than artistically; his friendships/collaborations with Pop Art icon Andy Warhol are still critiqued in the vortex of pop culture phenomena. But there’s so much more…
Enjoy these great links to more information on the life of Basquiat:
- The official Basquiat website.
- For a closer look at Basquiat works now in circulation and editorial imprints from those still inspired by the Radiant Child, try Artsy’s resource.
- Use this link or this one , to read ‘The Radiant Child’, Rene Ricard’s 1981 Artforum article that launched Basquiat onto the art world.
Watch: Basquiat, the movie directed by Julian Schnabel starring Jeffrey Wright as Basquiat.
At Basquiat’s memorial, Fab 5 Freddy “interpolated” the poem ‘Genius Child’ by Langston Hughes. You can read it here
has rare vinyl record albums with offset cover art from Jean Michel Basquiat’s band, Gray.
How could I forget the movie he starred in, Downtown 81 – that bizarre urban fairytale-like dream that mirrored his early life. You can stream the remastered 30th Anniversary edition on Amazon Video
*images Jean-Michel Basquiat in 1985 Photo: AP
57 Great Jones Street is more than the former home and studio of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988). It represents a mythical era of street art – an infamous downtown cool kids scene most of us never got to experience firsthand.
On July 13, as part of the historic plaque program, the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation (GVSHP) will unveil a plaque marking the site of Basquiat’s former home and studio – once owned by his friend and mentor, Andy Warhol.
The historic plaque unveiling ceremony (in partnership with Two Boots) aims to “celebrate and explore the invaluable work and local connections of this essential artist,” GVSHP said. The event will take place on July 13 at 6 pm, attendance is free but reservations are requested. The presentation will be followed by free pizza courtesy of local restaurant Two Boots.
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Since you never know what crowd you’ll be falling into –we’ve compiled a non-threatening mix of books to get your Art Smart on. Some cover the hype of a few well-known art stars, and others take you into current art movements. There are a few biographies and “text” book like works on our list, but that’s because it makes it easier to appreciate the new when you know what influences the artist drew from. We’re not promising to turn you into art aficionados, but we can help you load your bookshelf down with a couple of gems. The oldies but goodies you should already own.
- History of Art by HW Janson – The seminal art history textbook. The one to which all others pale in comparison. I used this when I took my first Art History class, and it totally changed the way I looked at art and gave me a basis with which to view art that I still call upon today.
- 501 Great Artists: A Comprehensive Guide to the Giants of the Art World by Susie Hodge – Another basic text for art lovers, easy to read and very educational. It’s a very good “primer” on who makes up the bedrock of the art world.
- Lust for Life by Irving Stone – Irving Stone is a wonderful writer and this account of Van Gogh’s life is quite amazing. This book gives you an idea of what a tortured soul he was, and how hard he tried to find his place in life.
- The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone – This time Stone writes about Michelangelo’s life. He was so clearly a genius since youth. It takes you through his time painting for sponsors, and then his grand patrons, the Medici’s. His relationship with the Pope was a complex one as well, and Stone brings this all to the book. A must-read.
- Going Postal by Martha Cooper – Because stickers from the US Postal Service, UPS, DHL and FEDEX are so readily available, it became the perfect canvas for the graffiti culture. Graffiti photography Martha Cooper showcases a collection of more than 200 photographs of some of her favorite handmade postal stickers from around the world.
- Jean -Michel Basquiat: 1960-1988 by Leonhard Emmerling – This is an amazing bio of Basquiat, who in less than a decade became an international art star. His genius trapped in a burgeoning art movement set on ‘crazed’ did nothing to help slow down the excesses he became eventually became a victim of.
- Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury & Aly Sujo – This is the story of John Drewe, an alleged physicist and avid art collector, who began passing off copies of famous art pieces as genuine, and then forging their provenance. A real page-turner about a con artist and how he got away with it for so long.
- Hiding in the Light: On Images and Things (Comedia) by Dick Hebdige – A wonderful back to the basics book about the meaning of Post-Modernism.
- The Philosophy of Andy Warhol: A to B and Back Again by Andy Warhol – Andy writes about himself, no holds barred. A great book from the Master’s own mind.
- Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton – This is an incredible book about the in’s and out’s of the art world. We get a great ride ‘behind the scenes’, a detailed look at how a painting is brought to auction, and the intricate hierarchy that exists between the collector and buyer. I didn’t think it would be interesting, but I was into it from the first page.
- Subway Art by Martha Cooper – Yet another must-have book from photographer Martha Cooper. This book covers the epitome of classic NYC graffiti, a veritable Bible for this subculture.
- Steve Powers: A Love Letter for You by Steve Powers – Graffiti Artist, Steve Powers started painting his “ESPO” alias across the walls and rooftops of Philadelphia in 1984, just as the city’s Anti-Graffiti Network was launched. Twenty-five years later, in the summer of 2009, he returned to Philly, armed with 1,200 cans of spray paint, 800 gallons of bucket paint and 20 of the finest spray painters in America, to inscribe an epic love letter on the rooftops facing the Market-Frankford line, as a public art project. Powers consulted the community in West Philly and collaborated with The Mural Arts Program and the Pew Center, and with their help, transformed this 20-block stretch of buildings into visual and architectural Valentine poems.
- Training Days: The Subway Artists Then and Now by HenryChalfant and Sacha Jenkins – Throw some old school B&W photos of break dancers at Coney Island (is that the Cyclone I see in the background), a table of contents designed to look like an NYC Subway stop, interviews with graffiti legends like Lady Pink, andSkeme, and I’m all ready to meet the mailman at my door on the regular until my Amazon package shows up.Seriously though, Training Days: The Subway Artists Then and Now promises authentic first–person accounts from the graffiti artists whose creative genius fueled the movement from its beginning in late 1970s and early 1980s New York.
The most comprehensive retrospective since the tragic death of 35-year old Michel Majerus, the Berlin-based protégé of Joseph Kosuth, this exhibition will span all three Matthew Marks gallery spaces in Chelsea. Large scale paintings, such as “o.T. (collaboration Nr. 8)” (1999) make direct references to art historical motifs like Jean-Michel Basquiat’s signature figures and inclusion of words, as well as advertisements from consumer products, like the GE logo. This hyper-awareness of one’s context within an environment heavily influenced by the temptation to make commercial gains on popular culture made Majerus stand out among his peers.
Michel Majerus opens February 8 with a reception from 6:00- 8:00 PM.
The exhibition will be on display until April 19, 2014 at 522, 526, and 502 W. 22nd St.
o.t. (collaboration Nr. 8) (1999)
depressive neurosis (2000)
Tron 5 (hellblau Pantone 311) (1999)