Jean-Michel Basquiat first attracted attention for his graffiti under the name “SAMO” in New York City. Prior to his painting career became popular, he sold sweatshirts and postcards showcasing his artwork on the streets.
“I am not a black artist, I am an artist.” ~Jean-Michel Basquiat”
Early On In Life
Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat was given birth to in Brooklyn, New York, on December 22, 1960. Having a Haitian-American father and a Puerto Rican mother, Basquiat’s diverse cultural heritage had been among his many sources of inspiration.
A self-taught artist, Basquiat started drawing at an early age on sheets of paper his father, an accountant, brought home from the office. As he delved much deeper into his imaginative side, his mother highly encouraged him to go after artistic talents.
When Basquiat first caught attention for his graffiti in New York City in the late 1970s, under the name “SAMO.” He worked with a close friend tagging subway trains and Manhattan buildings with cryptic aphorisms.
In 1977, Basquiat give up high school a year before having been slated to graduate. To make ends meet, he sold sweatshirts and postcards showcasing his art work within the streets of his native New York.
Business oriented Achievements
Three years of struggle gave way to popularity in 1980, when his work was showcased in a group show. His work and style received critical acclaim for the fusion of words and phrases, symbols, stick figures, and animals. Before long, his paintings came to be adored by an art loving public that had no problem paying as much as $50,000 for a Basquiat original.
His surge coincided with the emergence of a new art movement, Neo-Expressionism, ushering in a influx of new, young and experimental artists that included Julian Schnabel and Susan Rothenberg.
From the mid 1980s, Basquiat collaborated with famed pop artist Andy Warhol, that resulted in a show of their work that featured a series of corporate logos and cartoon characters.
By himself, Basquiat carried on to demonstrate around the country and also the world. In 1986, he visited Africa for a show in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. That exact same year, the 25-year-old exhibited almost 60 paintings at the Kestner-Gesellschaft Gallery in Hanover, Germany-becoming the youngest artist to ever showcase his work there.
Because his popularity soared, so did Basquiat’s individual problems. By the mid-1980s, friends became increasingly concerned by his excessive drug use. He became paranoid and separated himself from the world around him for long strethes. Desperate to quit a heroin dependancy, he left New York for Hawaii in 1988, coming back a couple of months later and claiming to be sober.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t. Basquiat passed away of a drug overdose on August 12, 1988, in New York City. He was 27 years old. Even though his art career was brief, Jean-Michel Basquiat continues to be credited with bringing the African-American and Latino experience in the elite art world.