Ten questions about Basquiat

10 questions about Basquiat

Ten questions about Basquiat, to get to know him and get important information about his work and his life.

Who is Basquiat?
Jean-Michel Basquiat (December 22, 1960 – August 12, 1988) was an American artist. Jean-Michel Basquiat was born at Brooklyn Hospital. His father Gérard Basquiat, born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; is mother, Matilde Andrades, born in Brooklyn of Puerto Rican parents.

How did his artistic career begin?

SAMO© graffito

SAMO© graffito

In the period from 1976-1977 until 1979 Basquiat realized, in collaboration with Al Diaz, many graffiti using the ‘SAMO©’ tag. It accompanied short phrases, in turns poetic and sarcastic, primarly painted on the streets of downtown Manhattan. Examples of this prases are: “SAMO© AS AN END TO MINDWASH RELIGION, NOWHERE POLITICS, AND BOGUS PHILOSOPHY”, “SAMO© SAVES IDIOTS”, “PLUSH SAFE HE THINK; SAMO©.” “SAMO© 4 THE SO-CALLED AVANT-GARDE”, “SAMO© AS A CONGLOMERATE OF DORMANT-GENIOUS”.

Which art movement it belonged to?

Along with Julian Schnabel, Kenny Scarf and Francesco Clemente, Basquiat was considered one of the leading figures of Neo-Expressionism, an art movement that reasserted the primacy of the human figure in contemporary art.

What was his first exhibition?

In June 1980 Basquiat’s art is publicly exhibited for the first time in the “Times Square Show”, a group exhibition held in a vacant building in Times Square. The exhibition is organized by Colab (Collaborative Projects), an artist-run group based in the Lower East Side, and Fashion Moda, a graffiti-based alternative gallery space in the South Bronx. Some of the other artists in the show are David Hammons, Jenny Holzer, Joe Lewis, Lee Quiñones, Kenny Scharf, and Kiki Smith.

The venue of the Times Square Show, 1980

The venue of the Times Square Show, 1980.

Did he succeed in life or was his art recognized only after his death?

Basquiat in Documenta 7, Kassel, 1982.

Basquiat in Documenta 7, Kassel, 1982.

Basquiat has had considerable success during his short life. From February to April 1981, Basquiat is included in “New York/New Wave”, an exhibition organized by Diego Cortez for the large gallery space at P.S.1 in Long Island City.
Basquiat’s works attract the attention of very important dealers like Emilio Mazzoli, Bruno Bischofberger, and Annina Nosei.

In 1982, at the age of 21, he became the youngest artist to ever exhibit at Documenta in Kassel, Germany, when nearly 60 of his paintings were featured at the esteemed exhibition.

Since 1982 his quotations have steadily grown, and this has allowed him to become rich despite his young age.

On February 10, Basquiat appears on the cover of the New York Times Magazine, for Cathleen McGuigan’s extensive article, “New Art, New Money: The Marketing of an American Artist.”

I’m not a real person. I’m a legend.
Jean-Michel Basquiat


Where his artworks are displayed today?

Many of Basquiat’s artworks are present in very important museums and art gallery around the world. The following public museums:

exhibit Basquiat’s artworks. Also several prestigious galleries of modern and contemporary art like GALERIE BRUNO BISCHOFBERGER, the Gagosian network of art galleries, Soho Contemporary Art own Basquiat’s artworks that are for sale but can be viewed for free. Exhibitions dedicated to Basquiat are frequently organized from museums and galleries around the world.

Who were his friends? Which places he attended?

His first significant friendship was with Al Diaz, the boy with whom he started the SAMO project. Basquiat was a close friend of Julian Schnabel, Keith Haring, Vincent Gallo, Jeffrey Deitch, an art consultant, Fab 5 Freddy, an american visual artist, filmmaker, and hip hop pioneer. Andy Warhol was his lifelong friend and mentor.

Basquiat was a regular visitor to the Mudd Club; for him it was virtually a second home. The Mudd Club was a night club in the TriBeCa district, opened in October 1978. The club was very well known in the underground music and counterculture scene of New York. Closed in 1983.

Basquiat at Mudd Club

Basquiat at Mudd Club

Another local frequented by Basquiat was the AREA, a place very much in vogue in those years. Basquiat was also a frequent visitor to the Mr Chow restaurant, in 57th Street New York.

How much his artworks cost?

Artworks by Basquiat continue to fascinate the world 30 years after his death. The prices of Basquiat’s artworks are constantly rising, and today they have very high prices.

The drawings and the works on paper can reach the price of many tens of thousands of dollars, his paintings of minor importance are sold for figures of the order of a few million dollars, while his most significant works cost tens of millions of dollars. An artwork brought $57.3 million at auction in 2016.

His record price has been reached on 18 May 2017, at auction at Sotheby’s New York: a masterpiece by Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for a record $110.5 million (£85m). Sotheby’s said the sale of “Untitled” on Thursday night in Manhattan was an auction record for the artist. It also set a record price for an American artist at auction.

Masterpiece sold for $110.5 million

Masterpiece sold for $110.5 million

What was his gender? Have he had many love affair?
Basquiat and Suzanne Mallouk

Basquiat and Suzanne Mallouk

Basquiat was heterosexual. He was a very nice boy and had a big success with women.

The most important love of his life was Suzanne Mallouk, a woman who was not a simple muse and lover for Basquiat; but the co-participant as well as the catalyst of every phase of the creative process during the very short but intense life of the New York artist. Not surprisingly, while she is with Basquiat, Suzanne graduates in psychology and it is only thanks to her that the artist manages to understand herself completely through her art.

He also had a brief relationship with the famous pop star Madonna, and several other girlfriends. His latest girlfriend was Kelle Inman, she was 22 when Basquiat died.

What is the cause of his death?
Basquiat died of an accidental drug overdose on August 12, 1988, at his Great Jones Street studio. He was 27 years old. In the months preceding his death, the troubled artist claimed to be using a hundred bags of heroin a day.

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