This Haitian-Puerto Rican-American man, who was born on 22 December 1960 and died on 12 August 1988, was an amazing artist, poetry, musician and producer.
Was an important part of SAMO, an informal graffiti group who wrote enigmatic epigrams in the cultural hotbed of the Lower East Side of Manhattan during 70s where the hip hop, post-punk and street art movements had coalesced.
In 1979, after SAMO’s dead, he founded Gray, a music group where he played the clarinet and synthesizer and frequented trendy clubs like CBGB and Mudd Club, places where meet many artists, but he gave up his musical career so soon.
Since 1980, Jean-Michel started to be focus on art. He had a certain intellectual curiosity and felt a real fascination with the abstract expressionism, gestural strokes by Franz Kline, by the first works of Jackson Pollock, the paintings with figures of De Kooning and Cy Twombly calligraphies, all which, together with their Haitian and Puerto Rican roots took him to have a great command of graphic gestures expressively. Also interested in the combine paintings of Robert Rauschenberg and the Art Brut of Jean Dubuffet as well as the popular culture, his graffiti took on an increasingly close to that of the recent American painting plastic and expressive quality to the point of that a few years later, Jeffrey Deitch defined his work as “shocking combination art De Kooning and spray painted scribbles in the New York subway.”
In 1980 was his first artistic exhibition in Times Square Show with other graffiti artists. He chose few SAMO’s graffiti. Despite the bad reviews, this kind of artists start to be reconized and integration in the art’s system. Few Soho’s galleries like White Columns and Fashion Moda, ceded their space for graffiti artists could hang their works eventually.
In 1981, Basquiat exposed his art in Institute for Art and Urban Resources of New York. Here where was he met Andy Warhol and they started a long good friendship and professional collaboration.
His passion for music was that big in the most intense period of his career, he began producing rap music and DJ in clubs in Manhattan. His favorite musicians: Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Dizzie Gillespie and Billie Holiday, among others, appear in the paintings of those years.
In 1982 starts his real way to the success: his exhibitions are multiplied. This year, he was included in the exhibition Transvanguardia: Italia / America with artists neoexpresionistas like S. Chia, F. Clement, E. Cucchi, D. Deutsch, D. Salle and Julian Schnabel. He also participated in the exhibition organized by Diego Cortez, presented at the Marlborough Gallery in New York “The Pressure to Paint”.
The next year, he participated in Whitney Museum of New York alongside the new expressionist artists and other graffiti artists as K. Haring. That same year, Jean-Michel appeared as one of the principal artists in Post-Graffiti exposure in Sidney Janis Gallery. He also had individual exposures in prestigious galleries like Gagosian New York and Annina Nosei.
In 1984 Andy Warhol introduced him to the gallerist Bruno Bischofberger Swiss, who unveiled his work in Europe and with whom he collaborated closely until his death. Since this year, Jean’s friends started to worry about him and his drug addiction.
Jean-Michel started to appeared in fashion magazines as Vanity Fear and Vogue, but not as artist, but by his life of “high society” and its presence at parties and fashionable clubs.
10 February 1985, Jean-Michel Basquiat appears on the cover of the Sunday New York Times magazine, becoming the first black artist to appear on the front page. Curiously cause in that time the white racist stereotype blacks considered good athletes, good dancers and good musicians, but not in areas such as the arts. The article accompanying the photo, written by Cathleen McGuigan, is entitled “New Art, New Money: The Marketing of American artist”
He worked with Francesco Clemente and Andy Warhol, but didn’t have a positive response in the review. The result of this collaboration are several large canvases with enticing color combinations, collages that combine painting, screen printing, graffiti and advertising language. Andy Warhol wrote in his diary: “Jean-Michel Basquiat has managed me to paint a very different way, and that’s fine”. The idea of paint together was considered enriching for both of them cause Warhol, who at that time only employed techniques such as screen printing, picked up the brush again, and Basquiat began to know the mechanical techniques applied to painting.
In 1986 Basquiat traveled to Africa to exhibit in Abidjan (Ivory Coast). In November, made a big exhibition at the Kestner-Gesellschaft Hannover Museum, and he became, with his 25 years old, the youngest artist who exhibited at that museum.
In 1988 installed exhibitions in Paris and New York, and in April of that year he talked about leaving their addictions and moved to his home in Hawaii. He returned to New York in June, announcing that it has been freed from addictions, but the August 12, 1988, at age 27, he died of a heroin overdose, being the most successful black visual artist in the history of African American art.
Throughout his brief but intense career made more than 40 solo exhibitions and participated in over 100 collectives. Self-promotion and advertising claim were for Basquiat priority factors, as previously they had been for Andy Warhol and Julian Schnabel for.
In 1996 the life of Jean-Michel Basquiat was brought to the big screen, after 6 years of filming, from the hand of his friend Julian Schnabel. David Bowie played as Andy Warhol.
Nowdays, many brands like Reebok or Supreme (among others) are inspired by Basquiat and his art.