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Who Is Haitian Puerto Rican-American Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat?

Jean-Michel Basquiat was an artist of the 1980s who is credited with bringing the African-American and Latino experience to the elite art world. Born in Brooklyn to a Haitian-American father and a Puerto Rican mother, he drew much of his inspiration from his diverse heritage. He collaborated with famed pop artist Andy Warhol and even dated singer Madonna. Basquiat died of a drug overdose at the age of 27. Both Jay-Z and Kanye West made reference to Basquiat on their 2011 collaborative album “Watch The Throne“. In “Illest Motherf*cker Alive”, Jay-Z raps “Basquiats, Warhols serving as my muses”. In his verse on Lil Wayne‘s song John Rick Ross raps “Red on the wall, Basquiat when I paint”.

American artist. Born in Brooklyn, New York, on December 22, 1960. With a Haitian-American father and a Puerto Rican mother, Basquiat’s diverse cultural heritage was one of his many sources of inspiration. A self-taught artist, Basquiat first attracted attention for his graffiti under the name “SAMO” in New York City. He sold sweatshirts and postcards featuring his artwork on the streets before his painting career took off. He participated in his first group show in 1980 and had his first one-man exhibition in Milan, Italy, the following year. Basquiat collaborated with famed pop artist Andy Warhol in the mid-1980s, which resulted in a show of their work. He became an internationally known artist, receiving critical acclaim for the fusion of words, symbols, stick figures, and animals found in his work.

Basquiat died of a drug overdose on August 12, 1988. He was 27. Although his art career was brief, he has been credited with bringing the African-American and Latino experience in the elite art world.

Since Basquiat’s death in 1988, his market has developed steadily — in line with overall art market trends — with a dramatic peak in 2007 when, at the height of the art market boom, the global auction volume for his work was over $115m. Brett Gorvy, deputy chairman of Christie’s, is quoted describing Basquiat’s market as “two-tiered.  The most coveted material is rare, generally dating from the best period, 1981-83.” Until 2002, the highest money paid for an original work of Basquiat’s was US$3,302,500, set on November 12, 1998 at Christie’s. In 2002, Basquiat’s Profit I (1982), a large piece measuring 86.5″/220 cm by 157.5″/400 cm, was set for auction again at Christie’s by drummer Lars Ulrich of the heavy metal band Metallica. It sold for US$5,509,500.The proceedings of the auction are documented in the film Some Kind of Monster.

In 2008, at another auction at Christie’s, Ulrich sold a 1982 Basquiat piece, Untitled (Boxer), for US$13,522,500 to an anonymous telephone bidder. Another record price for a Basquiat painting was made on in 2007, when an untitled Basquiat work from 1981 sold at Sotheby’s in New York for US$14.6 million. In 2012, Basquiat’s Untitled (1981), a painting of a haloed, black-headed man with a bright red skeletal body, depicted amid the artist’s signature scrawls, was sold by Robert Lehrman for $16.3 million, well above its $12 million high estimate.A similar untitled piece, also undertaken in 1981 and formerly owned by the Israel Museum, sold for £12.92 million at Christie’s London, setting a world auction record for Basquiat’s work.

In 1996, seven years after the artist’s death, a biopic titled Basquiat was released, directed by Julian Schnabel, with actor Jeffrey Wright playing Basquiat. David Bowie played the part of Andy Warhol. Schnabel purchased the rights to the project after being interviewed, as a personal acquaintance of Basquiat, during its script development and realizing that he could do a better film.

A 2009 documentary film, Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child, directed by Tamra Davis, was first screened as part of the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and was shown on the PBS series Independent Lens in 2011.

I’ve seen both films and enjoyed learning every bit about the rise and fall of this great Haitian American artist.

To learn more about him go here



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