Andy Warhol? Surely you’re familiar with the name. Most people know him as an artist. But what about Jean-Michel Basquiat? Most people have never heard of him. Although he’s not a household name like Warhol, he was also an influential Neo-Expressionist painter in the 1980’s.
This NYC native was born in 1960 in Brooklyn, NY. His parents were Haitian-American and Puerto Rican, and he drew lots of inspiration from his heritage and cultural background. He was fluent in French, Spanish, and English.
From a young age he loved to draw and was constantly doing so. His mom in particular encouraged his interest in the arts.
He originally attracted attention under the alias SAMO for his graffiti. He sold postcards and apparel with his work featured on it as a way to fund himself after he dropped out of high school. And although he was a high school dropout, he was well educated in anatomy and the human form after he read “Gray’s Anatomy” following a surgery he underwent after being hit by a car.
After three years of street art, his work was featured in a group exhibit. His work received attention for its “fusion of words, symbols, stick figures, and animals.” Shortly after, he had a following in the art world that was willing to pay up to $50,000 for his original work. This ushered him into the beginning of his career and the beginning of Neo-Expressionism.
After he started gaining notoriety, Basquiat moved on to work with Andy Warhol. Shortly thereafter, he began his travels along the Ivory Coast and Germany.
Unfortunately, like many artists, Basquiat suffered from substance abuse problems, and as his popularity soared, so did his addiction. A drug overdose claimed his life in 1988 at the young age of 27. Though a young man, his work is said to be incredibly influential in the rise of Expressionism. It’s certainly had a great impact on the art world of New York City.