Jean-Michel Basquiat

“I was trying to communicate an idea; I was trying to paint a very urban landscape. I was trying to make paintings different from the paintings that I saw a lot of at the time, which were mostly minimal, and they were highbrow and alienating, and I wanted to make very direct paintings that most people would feel the emotion behind when they saw them.”

Jean-Michel Basquiat was an American multidisciplinary artist who was a driving voice in New York City’s Neo-Expressionist movement in the 1980s. 

Basquiat’s paintings were passionate, furiously created and bold – an essential contribution and influencing force in bringing graffiti to the attention of the institutionalized art world.

His work provided important cultural commentary, often weaving poetic background into his pieces and including clouds of fragmented sentences referencing the racist power structures he saw in the world around him.

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Solo Shows
Serpentine Galleries, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Dallas Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum + many more
Group Shows
MoMA, New Museum, SFMOMA, Whitney Museum of American Art, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, MOCA Los Angeles, Louisiana Museum of Art + many more
Permanent Collections
MoMA, Guggenheim

Jean-Michel Basquiat was an American multidisciplinary artist who was a driving voice in New York City’s Neo-Expressionist movement in the 1980s. As a teenager, Basquiat developed his artistic voice and street brand as one-half of the duo known as “SAMO” which stood for “Same Old S–––.” The SAMO graffiti developed a cult following in downtown Manhattan, and led the artist to cultivate a unique rhetoric that became essential to his work. The self-taught artist’s prolific, subversive drawings and paintings led to worldwide fame in his early twenties.

His work provided important cultural commentary, often weaving poetic background into his pieces and including clouds of fragmented sentences referencing the racist power structures he saw in the world around him. His work encapsulates a constant push and pull: between wealth and poverty, high and low class, inner versus outer experience. The chaotic comprehension of these ideologies manifests in bold collages that combine maps, logos, and bold, alien-like figures.

In his 1983 piece “Hollywood Africans,” the vivid colors emphasize the words such as “Gangsterism” and “Sugar Cane” – both references to the limited roles granted to Black actors. Basquiat’s paintings were passionate, furiously created and bold, and played an essential role in bringing graffiti to the attention of the institutionalized art world. He was close friends with other creative stars at the time, counting Keith Haring and Andy Warhol to be artistic collaborators and confidants. 

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