Jean-Michel Basquiat was an influential African-American artist who rose to success during the 1980s. Basquiat’s paintings are largely responsible for elevating graffiti artists into the realm of the New York gallery scene., his spray-painted crowns and scribbled words, referenced everything from his Haitian and Puerto Rican heritage, to political issues, pop-culture icons, and Biblical verse. The gestural marks and expressive nature of his work not only aligned him with the street art of Keith Haring but also the Neo-Expressionists Jullian Schnabel and David Salle. Born on December 22, 1960 in Brooklyn, NY, Basquiat never finished high school but developed an appreciation for art as a youth, from his many visits to the Brooklyn Museum of Art with his mother. His early work consisted of spray painting buildings and trains in downtown New York alongside his friend Al Diaz. The artist’s tag was the now infamous pseudonym SAMO. After quickly rising to fame in the early 1980s, Basquiat was befriended by many celebrities and artists, including Andy Warhol, with whom he made several collaborative works. At only 27, his troubles with fame and drug addiction led to his tragic death from an overdose on August 12, 1988 in New York, NY. His art now leads the auction houses and Basquiat is sought after by the top collectors and Museums.
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