Jean-Michel Basquiat

Born 1960. Died 1988.
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Works by Jean-Michel Basquiat at Sotheby's

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Jean-Michel Basquiat Biography

Brooklyn-born painter Jean-Michel Basquiat came out of New York’s vibrant downtown scene of the late 1970s to become one of the most influential and internationally renowned artists of the late 20th century. His street art and Neo-Expressionist works on canvas and paper as well as on random objects and surfaces are characterized by visually striking and psychologically powerful combinations of anatomical diagrams, charged words and cryptic phrases, numerals, pictograms, commercial graphic art, allusions to African history and African-American pop culture, as well as stick figures and maps.

Born of Afro-Caribbean parents on 22 December 1960, Basquiat was exposed to art by his mother and some of his teachers but received no formal art education. After dropping out of high school and leaving home in 1976, he attracted attention with the enigmatic graffiti he created under the name SAMO, befriending artists and downtown luminaries and beginning to paint and draw with more focused effort. A first public group show in a vacant Times Square building in June 1980 eventually led to his first solo exhibition in 1982. Success among the contemporary art-loving public was immediate, while critics both lauded Basquiat as a genius and derided him as a product of the newly booming market. In the mid-1980s, the artist collaborated on several works with the most famous artist of the time, Andy Warhol. He died of a heroin overdose on 12 August 1988. The influence of Basquiat’s complex aesthetic on subsequent generations of artist remains incalculable.

His works can be found in museum collections around the world including The Broad, Los Angeles, the Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona, and The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh. According to Sotheby’s Mei Moses index, the average compound annual return for works by Basquiat resold at auction between 2003 and 2017 was 17.4%, and 96.5% of 171 such works increased in value.

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Artist Image: © The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris 2018 / Photograph by Chalkie Davies 1984