Jean-Michel Basquiat, (1960 – 1988), American painter known for his raw gestural style of painting with graffiti-like images and scrawled text.
Basquiat was raised in a middle-class home in Brooklyn. His mother was an American of Puerto Rican descent. She encouraged Basquiat’s interest in art, taking him to New York City’s great art museums. His parents eventually separated, and he and his sisters lived with their father in Puerto Rico from 1974 to 1976. His mother was diagnosed as mentally ill and eventually was institutionalized. Troubled by his early childhood, Basquiat dropped out of high school and left home at age 17. He lived on the streets, with friends, or in abandoned buildings and began a graffiti campaign with graffiti artists Al Diaz and Shannon Dawson. They created the persona SAMO© (said to represent “same old shit”) and painted anonymous messages on walls around SoHo and the East Village and on the D train of the New York City subway system. In the late 1970s that work—together with the work of other graffitists—began to receive notice in the art world, and so did Basquiat. He emerged in the aboveground New York art scene at age 20, about the time that a resurgence of Expressionist painting was at its height, and participated in his first formal public exhibition in “The Times Square Show” (1980). From there his career skyrocketed, and, until his death in 1988, he was a celebrity, represented by major blue-chip galleries in New York and Germany. During his lifetime, an art loving public that had no problem paying as much as $50,000 for a Basquiat original. However, in 2017 a Japanese billionaire broke a record when he bought Basquiat’s “Untitled,” a 1982 painting of a skull, for $110.5 million at a Sotheby’s auction.
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