‘A picture is worth a thousand words’; we have heard this statement many times. A picture can be in the form of a photograph, piece of art, or sculpture. Art has a lot of power to bring a change in society. Every person perceives art from different perspectives, making it even more intriguing. The role of an artist is to bring out the beauty of the world to people. Jean- Michel Basquiat is one of those artists. His canvas artworks explored the social themes of morality, race, self-identity, and religion, which the society did not address during those times.
Overview of the artist
Art museums surrounded Basquiat’s childhood because of his mother. She wanted to instill the love for art in Basquiat’s mind from an early age. Being enrolled as a junior member of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, he became fond of paintings and sculptures. Basquiat was a precocious child who learned to read and write by the age of four and was fluent in French, Spanish and English with being an avid reader in all of those languages.
He often used to draw his favorite cartoons as a kid. He created a children’s book with his friend, which he wrote and his friend illustrated. He wrote and illustrated for the school newspaper and painted graffiti on buildings later. He studied at ‘City- as- School,’ which was home to many artistic students who found schooling difficult.
His father kicked him out at 17 after being expelled from school because the principal found one of his artworks offensive. Then he worked for a clothing store in the morning and made graffiti at night. His character ‘SAMO,’ who followed a faux religion, was recognized by a famous magazine. One of his graffiti arts was published in The Village Voice, and then there was no going back. He appeared in a live television show and got more work after that.
When Basquiat participated in The Times Square Show, he was noticed by many other artists and offered to work with them. Eventually, he worked with a lot of famous artists. His paintings could be of discarded doors on streets or other graffiti artists. His art was a mixture of historical information and contemporary critique. He often painted on social issues to raise awareness amongst people. His paintings included words and texts, his graffiti being often expressive and abstract at other times.
He even made heroic figures of athletes, kings, and musicians to recognize black heroes in his work. His art segregates into the types of minimalism and conceptualism. His art generally compared two completely contrasting scenarios: wealth versus poverty, integration versus segregation, and inner versus outer experience.
His early life had a lot of impact on his career. He did not stop making his ‘raw’ art form which led him on the path to success. Basquiat primarily used texts as reference sources. A few of the books that he had taken references from were Gray’s Anatomy, Henry Dreyfuss’ Symbol Sourcebook, Leonardo da Vinci published by Reynal & Company, and Burchard Brentjes’ African Rock Art, Flash of the Spirit by Robert Farris Thompson.
Apart from making art, he starred in a couple of films. The film was downtown 81, directed by his friend but was not released. A director had made a documentary on this artist, which premiered at the Sundance film festival in 2010. He was listed among GQ’s 50 most stylish men of the past 50 years in 2007. He was featured in Vanity Fair’s Art and Artists special edition. In 1991, poet Kevin Yong published a book with 117 poems on Basquiat. The book is named ‘To Repel Ghosts.’ He continues to be famous despite his death.
Recognition after death
He had made around 1500 artworks during his career, which ended due to his death at 27. He died because of a drug overdose, but steadily increased his work. Recently, one of his paintings named ‘Warrior’ was sold at a price of 41.9 million. Due to NFTs, the cost of his artworks ranges from 69 million to 500 million. There is a limit in his artworks due to his untimely death. The limited number of paintings led his paintings to sell at insanely high prices. His famous art pieces, which were sold at the highest prices, are Untitled (sold for 29.3 million), Flesh and Spirit (sold for 30.7 million), La Hara (sold for 35 million), and many more.
In 2017, Japanese billionaire art collector Yusaku Maezawa took home an untitled Basquiat piece for $110 million. He commented that “Basquiat is one of the strongest markets coming out of the pandemic,” art dealer Christophe van de Weghe commented to the Times today. “You can have a 28-year-old spending millions on Basquiat, and you can have a guy who is 85. He appeals to all kinds of people.”
- Chaneski, Wayne. “Creative Ways to Make Things Easier.” Modern Machine Shop, vol. 88, no. 4, Gardner Business Media Inc., Sept. 2015, p. 40.
- Jean-Michel Basquiat – Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Michel_Basquiat
- Basquiat Sells for $41.9 Million at Christie’s in Hong …. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/23/arts/design/basquiat-hong-kong-auction.html