Jean-Michel Basquiat was an American artist. Basquiat first achieved fame as part of SAMO, an informal graffiti duo who wrote enigmatic epigrams in the cultural hotbed of the Lower East Side of Manhattan during the late 1970s where the hip hop, punk, and street art movements had coalesced. By the 1980s, he was exhibiting his neo-expressionist paintings in galleries and museums internationally. The Whitney Museum of American Art held a retrospective of his art in 1992.
Basquiat’s art focused on “suggestive dichotomies”, such as wealth versus poverty, integration versus segregation, and inner versus outer experience. He appropriated poetry, drawing, and painting, and married text and image, abstraction, figuration, and historical information mixed with contemporary critique.
Basquiat used social commentary in his paintings as a “springboard to deeper truths about the individual”, as well as attacks on power structures and systems of racism, while his poetics were acutely political and direct in their criticism of colonialism and support for class struggle. He died of a heroin overdose at his art studio at age 27.
On May 18, 2017, at a Sotheby’s auction, Basquiat’s 1982 painting, also Untitled, created with oil stick and spray paint and depicting a skull, set a new record high for any U.S. artist at auction, selling for $110,500,000.
“I don’t think about art when I’m working. I try to think about life.”
“I’m not a real person. I’m a legend.”
“I never went to an art school. I failed the art courses that I did take in school. I just looked at a lot of things. And that’s how I learnt about art, by looking at it.”
“Samo meant same old shit… It was kind of sophomoric. It was supposed to be a logo, like Pepsi.”
“I don’t listen to what art critics say. I don’t know anybody who needs a critic to find out what art is.”
“The more I paint the more I like everything.”
“It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think your not.”