A look at the life and work of Jean-Michel Basquiat


Jean-Michel Basquiat was an artist who could be seen in a number of ways and his influence is still felt to this day.

He was born in 1960 in Brooklyn, New York. He endured a significant amount of challenges during his early years that including being run over at age 8 by a car, he experienced his parents separate from each other, he saw his mother being admitted to a mental asylum, he was stabbed by his father and became homeless at the age of 15. This type of story was not unique amongst the projects and communities of New York in the 1970s and entrepreneurship was used as a way not to accrue wealth but merely to survive for Basquiat.

Basquiat became a graffiti artist and began to use a name to identify himself on the streets to accompany his graffiti works, he teamed up with a friend Al Diaz and they used the name ‘SAMO.’ Basquiat found work and clients who were attracted to his artistic style and he managed to exhibit some work in 1979 at the influential Arleen Schloss’s art space. That year Basquiat also befriended hip-hip pioneer Fab 5 Freddy and would meet Andy Warhol soon after. In 1981 Basquiat would feature in the music video ‘Rapture’ by the group Blondie, and many cite this song as the first ‘rap’ single to reach No 1 in the US charts.


Blondie music video – ‘Rapture’

From then he engaged in music production and more artwork commissions led to his success as an artist. He became acquainted with the influential art dealers and his work was displayed throughout the world.

Basquiat’s story was certainly one from rags to riches and he lived fast and died young. The death of his friend Andy Warhol in 1987 had a negative impact on him and along with his frequent use of the drug heroin sent him on a downward spiral to his demise. He died of a drug overdose in 1988.

His influence is still felt within the art and hip-hop communities, which he played a part in during the formative years of the culture. Artists such as Jay Z, Kanye West, Rick Ross, Wyclef Jean, Swizz Beats, Nas, Lil’ Wayne, Phonte and many others have openly cited Basquiat as an influence in their artistic creations.


Jean Michel Basquiat ‘Shooting Star’

Entrepreneur: Jean-Michel Basquiat

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