Jean-Michel Basquiat was born December 22, 1960, in Brooklyn, New York. Basquiat had Haitian roots and he became one of the first famous artists from that country accepted in the American art scene. He was primarily a Neo-expressionist and graffiti artist.
He left home as a teenager and lived on the streets of New York. Inspired by African American culture, he supported himself by selling T-shirts and postcards he had painted.
The art world changed course in the early 1980s. Before, art was a way for members of white society to display their wealth. But suddenly, it was trendy among ordinary people. Before long, everyone wanted to attend exhibits, keep up on the happenings of the art world, and above all, to buy art themselves. People lined up to buy work from artists, which put greater demand on artists to be productive in order to satisfy customers. Basquiat objected to this development; he felt that art had become a trendy commodity rather than a means of personal expression for artists.
Under the pseudonym SAMO, he and Al Diaz began painting graffiti outdoors. This stamped him as a black “ghetto” artist, and he was never seen as equal to his white counterparts. Racial discrimination is a recurring theme in his artwork.
He met Andy Warhol through Paige Powell, art director of Interview magazine. Basquiat and Warhol had long run in the same circle, but they had never worked together. Warhol became a father figure to Basquiat and they made several paintings together. Unfortunately, critics were not particularly fond of their work; they felt that Basquiat had lost his touch and that Warhol was riding the coattails of Basquiat’s success. As a result, Basquiat and Warhol went their separate ways. Andy Warhol died shortly thereafter, which was hard on Basquiat; he descended deeper and deeper into drug addiction. The next year, 1988, Jean-Michel Basquiat died of an overdose.