Everything You Need to Know About Jean-Michel Basquiat

Another incredible talent and member of the 27 club, Jean-Michel Basquiat is an artist whose creations will live on for generations. The contemporary graffiti artist was famed for his neo-expressionist, abstract style and use of dichotomies in his work. Basquiat achieved more in his short life than many do in a lifetime, becoming a legend in his craft and leaving an impressive legacy behind. From humble beginnings to exhibiting across the globe, for everything you need to know about the man behind the artwork you’re in the right place. 



#1 Jean-Michel Basquiat history

Brooklyn born in late 1960, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s artistic future was written in the stars, born into a creative family with artist mother Matilde from Puerto Rico and Dad Gerard a Haitian American. His multi-cultural upbringing allowed him to become fluent in both French and Spanish after also spending some time growing up in Puerto Rico before moving to New York. Basquiat started his artistic career under the alias SAMO, after spray-painting aphorisms onto buildings and galleries in Manhattan.  His neo-expressionist art was noted as ‘Direct representation of an African cultural heritage in the artistic tradition of the West.’ There was also clear artistic influence from the music and sports industry of the 80’s, with Basquiat’s collection of jazz being his largest source of inspiration. Basquiat also took inspiration from the black athletes and jazz musicians of the time and featured them in his paintings as expression of his strong cultural identity.

After rising to fame in the 1980’s, Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibited his paintings in shows internationally, starting with The Times Square Show in New York. It was here where he was noticed by Italian gallerist Emilio Mazzoli, who invited Basquiat over to Italy to host his first solo show. From 1982 up until his untimely death in 1988, Basquiat exhibited his artwork internationally alongside some other very well known artists and friends including Keith Haring and Andy Warhol. In 1988 Basquiat passed away from a heroin overdose, said to be used as a coping method for his rise to fame.



#2 Did Basquiat go to art school?

No, from an early age Basquiat’s artistic intentions were encouraged by his parents and would visit the Brooklyn museum so frequently that his mother made him a member at the age of only 6. Basquiat was self taught and naturally gifting in painting, drawing and composing pictures in his neo expressionist style. His mother was committed to a mental institute when Jean-Michel was only 15, where she would be in and out of in the following years. He proceeded to dropout of school at the age of 17 and started studying at City-As School, an alternative high school in Manhattan and known for housing artistic students.

#3 Where can I see Jean-Michel Basquiat artwork?

You can find Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work at the following galleries.

#4 What materials did Basquiat use in his artwork?

Jean-Michel Basquiat used a variety of products to create his artwork including acrylic, oil paint and spray paint on canvas, paper, linen, paper collage, crayon transfer and even doors.



#5 How much is an original Basquiat worth?

Basquiat is one of the few artists who has had artwork sold for over $100 million dollars at Sotheby’s auction. His famous 1982 skull painting was bought for $110 million dollars. Crafted from oil stick and spray paint the painting was won at auction by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa.

@ yusaku2020


#6 Jean-Michel Basquiat in fashion

Renowned for painting in expensive Armani suits, Basquiat always had a love for fashion, even walking in runway shows for Comme de Garcon and Issey Miyake in the 80’s. As Basquiat’s fame continued to rise he also started to gain media attention, becoming known for not only his art but also his style. Since his passing, Basquiat’s art has been used in various designer collections, including WACKO MARIA, Coach, Dr. Martens and more.


Words by Emma Bowkett

Emma Bowkett

Emma Bowkett

Writer and expert