Jean-Michel Basquait

One of the first graffiti artist in New York city in the 1970s, Jean-Michel Baquait had a very unique and obscure style.  He later became a well known and successful Noe-Impressionist and Primitivist painter in the 1980s.  He married text with images and focused his paintings on political and social topics.  Through these "suggestive dichotomies" of art Basquait featured topics such as segregation versus integration and wealth versus poverty.  As a child Basquait was very gifted and advanced for his age.  By the age of 4 he could read and write and by the age 11 he could fluently speak, read and write Spanish, French and English.  His mother realized his gift and encouraged his artistic talent.  When Basquait was about 8 years old he was hit by a car and suffered internal injuries and a broken arm.  His mother and father split that same year and he then moved with his father to Puerto Rico.  They would later return to New York when he was 11 and his mother was later committed to a mental institute.  When Baquait was 15 years old he ran away from home where he was later banned by his father.   He dropped out of high school and slept at friends houses and earned a small living selling handmade t-shirts and post cards.  In the 1970s Baquait and his friend Al Diaz began spray-painting graffiti on the building walls of Lower Manhattan, tagging the walls with the word "SAMO."  The phrase stood for "same old shit."  When the two broke off their friendship the last tags were seen in SoHo and simply stated "SAMO IS DEAD!"   In 1980, Baquait starred in an independent film titled Document 81.  That same year he met the famous Andy Warhol at a restaurant where he showed Warhol some of his prints.  Amazed by his incredible talent and genius Warhol collaborated with Baquait on future pieces.  He would often paint while wearing an Armani suit and would be seen wearing the same paint splattered suits while in public.  Baquait was featured on the cover of the New York Times magazine on February 10, 1985 and in an article titled "New Art New Money; The Marketing of An American Artist."   He was a very successful artist in his day but his heroine addiction and depression took over with the death of Andy Warhol.  He became very isolated and depressed after Warhol's death and on August 12, 1988 overdosed on heroine in his art studio in NoHo, New York.  He was only 27.  Basquait's legacy lives on through literature, art, music and film.  Many celebrities such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Madonna are private collectors of Baquait's work.  Check out the exhibit dates featuring his work on his website.