Jean-Michel Basquiat was an innovative artist out of Brooklyn, New York who became known for his intricate solo work and collaborations with the likes of Andy Warhol.
Basquiat was born on December 22, 1960 to a Haitian father and Puerto Rican mother. According to accounts, his mother instilled him an appreciation for art when he was a boy. At 16, Basquiat engaged in an art project with friend Al Diaz jointly known as SAMO, crafting elaborate graffiti pieces all throughout New York City.
A chance meeting with a warehouse owner that he and Diaz defaced with art led to an opportunity for Basquiat to work and still hone his craft as an artist. In the late ‘70’s, Basquiat became a fixture of New York’s flourishing arts and music scene, which led to the chance meeting with Warhol who was impressed by the young man’s skill set. The pair worked on projects together and Basquiat began appearing in a handful of movies and television shows.
As the ‘80’s rolled in, Basquiat’s fame also grew to greater heights with exposure to an international audience. And for a man who once slept on park benches and at the homes of friends, his pieces were commanding as much as $25,000 per purchase. His style of art was not for the faint of heart or casual eye as his attention to the most minute of details was always on display in his works.
Basquiat famously struggled with drug addiction and other troubles despite his massive fame. He died of a drug overdose in August 1988 inside his New York studio. He was just 27.
In death, Basquiat’s legend grew with art collectors and famous figures such as Jay-Z boasting of owning his coveted pieces. In 2017, a Japanese billionaire purchased the painting “Untitled” for $110 million, a record for an American artist.