Jean-Michel Basquiat Facts

Who was Jean-Michel Basquiat?

Jean-Michel Basquiat was an important figure in the 1980’s New York art scene, and his paintings were inspired by graffiti and street art.

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Facts About Jean-Michel Basquiat

  • Jean-Michel Basquiat was born Park Slope, Brooklyn, New York City in 1960.
  • His father was from Haiti and his mother was of Puerto Rican descent.
  • His mother took Jean-Michel Basquiat to lots of art museums when he was a child, and he was a junior member of the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
  • Jean-Michel Basquiat could read and write by the age of four.
  • In 1968, when he was seven years old, Jean-Michel Basquiat was hit by a car. He broke his arm and had to have an operation on his spleen.
  • Later in 1968, his parents separated. His mother was suffering from mental health issues, and she was committed to a psychiatric hospital. From the age of ten, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s father looked after him and his sister.
  • Basquiat was fluent in French, Spanish, and English. He could speak and read in all of these languages by the age of eleven.
  • Jean-Michel Basquiat struggled at school following his mother’s illness and he ran away from home when he was fifteen. Eventually, the police brought him back home.
  • In 1978, Jean-Michel Basquiat and one of his school friends, Al Diaz, started to spray paint graffiti in Lower Manhattan. They worked under the name of SAMO.
  • He dropped out of school at the age of 17, and his father kicked him out of the house.
  • In 1979 he appeared on the TV Party television show.
  • He started to create graffiti around the New York School of Visual Art, and he became friends with the artist Keith Haring.
  • He formed the Test Pattern noise-rock band with Shannon Dawson. One of the other members of the band was Vincent Gallo, who went on to become a famous actor and director.
  • Jean-Michel Basquiat created postcards with his friend Jennifer Stein, and he once sold one to Andy Warhol.
  • In 1981, Jean-Michel Basquiat sold his first painting. It was called Cadillac Moon, and it was purchased by Debbie Harry (from the group Blondie).
  • In 1982, at the age of 21, Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibited his works in Kassel, Germany alongside works by the artists Anselm Kiefer, Cy Twombly, and Andy Warhol.
  • Andy Warhol had lunch with Jean-Michel Basquiat in 1982. On the same day, Basquiat created a painting of the two men together and delivered it to Warhol. The work is titled Dos Cabezas.
  • In 1983 he dated Madonna before she became a famous pop star.
  • Jean-Michel Basquiat was inspired by the work of Robert Rauschenberg.
  • He created the work Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart) in response to the death of the black artist killed by transit police.
  • In the mid-1980s, Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat collaborated on a number of pieces of work. Some of their joint work includes Olympics, Zenith, and Taxi.
  • He often wore paint-splattered suits.
  • In 1985, he appeared on the cover of The New York Times Magazine.
  • Jean-Michel Basquiat became addicted to drugs, and in the last few years of his life, he became very reclusive.
  • He died at the age of 27, and is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.
  • Keith Haring created the painting A Pile of Crowns for Jean-Michel Basquiat in honour of his friend.
  • His paintings routinely fetch many millions of dollars when they go up for auction. In 2021, for example, his painting called In This Case, sold for $93,100,000.
  • Banksy created two pieces of work inspired by Jean-Michel Basquiat on the walls of Londo’s Barbican Centre.
  • During the 2020-21 NBA season, the Brooklyn Nets basketball team wore Jean-Michel Basquiat-inspired jerseys and had their court designed to resemble his artwork.
  • The American band The Strokes used Jean-Michel Basquiat’s painting called Bird on Money as the cover for their The New Abnormal album.

How did Jean-Michel Basquiat die?

Jean-Michel Basquiat dies of a heroin overdose on August 12 1988. He was 27 years of age, and although he was taken to Cabrini Medical Center, he was pronounced dead on arrival.

What are the main themes in Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work? What does his art mean?

I want to make paintings that look as if they were made by a child.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work brought together elements of street art, graffiti, poetry, drawing, and painting. His works are often covered with letters, numerals, logos, and symbols, and they explore the themes of wealth versus poverty, class struggle, colonialism, and segregation.

His work shows the influences of his diverse cultural heritage. Spanish words are often incorporated into his paintings, and his interpretation of African-American history was another important theme of his work.

The black person is the protagonist in most of my paintings. I realized that I didn’t see many paintings with black people in them.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

The symbol of the crown features in many of his early works, and Charlie Parker, the famous saxophonist, one of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s heroes, features in several of his paintings.

Many of his paintings are inspired by the anatomy book Gray’s Anatomy, and heads and skulls are a recurring subject matter.

I don’t think about art when I’m working. I try to think about life.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

How many paintings did Jean-Michel Basquiat paint?

It is thought that Jean-Michel Basquiat completed approximately 1500 drawings and more than 500 paintings in his short career.