Jean Michel Basquiat (Contemporary artist)



2015-06-26 11:06:18

Jean Michel Basquiat (born on the 22nd December 1960) was an American artist whose career began with his participation in New York graffiti, and by the 1980s had evolved into the creation of Neo-expressionist artwork. Basquiat suffered a fatal heroin overdose on the 12th August 1988, at the age of just 27.


Basquiat was born in Brooklyn, New York, to parents of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent. Basquiat's artistic talent was noted at a young age, and encouraged by his mother. His parents separated in 1968, the same year Basquiat was hit by a car, suffering several internal injuries; he and his two sisters were subsequently raised by his father.

At the age of fifteen, he ran away from home, but was returned to his father's home within a week. In his late teens, after dropping out of high school, Basquiat's father told him to leave home, and after working various odd jobs to support himself, including stints selling t-shirts and postcards, Basquiat began his artistic career; in 1976 he and two friends began spray-painting buildings in Lower-Manhattan. He subsequently became a prominent figure in New York's underground art scene.

Guide For Collectors

Basquiat often included words in his paintings; prior to his career as a painter, he had designed and marketed the punk-inspired postcards he sold in the streets of New York. The mingling of several different forms of media is a significant factor of Basquiat's work. He typically covered his paintings with letters, diagrams, logos and the like.

His work can be found at leading auction houses which specialize in painting; his work, 'Alchemy', is estimated to sell at Sotheby's for between £50, 000 and £70, 000, whilst larger works are estimated to auction at between £120,000 and £180,000.

Most Expensive Work

Basquiat's 1985 painting 'Overrun', featuring a skull-like head and an urban landscape, sold for $1,127,650 in early 2011. ‘Profit’, a piece measuring 220cm by 400cm, was auctioned at Christie’s for $5,509,500 in 2002, and on the 12th of November 2008, again at Christie’s, Basquiat’s 1982 painting ‘Untitled (Boxer)’ sold for $13,522, 500.

On 15th of May 2007, an untitled painting dating from 1981 was sold at Sotheby’s auction house in New York for $14.6 million. The same work was later sold at Christie's in June 2012 for £12,921,250 ($20,170,071).

The most expensive Basquiat painting ever sold is Dustheads (1982), which sold for $48,843,750 at Christie's in May 2013.

See main article: Top 10 Jean Michel Basquiat paintings sold at auction

Most Famous Works

His painting, ‘Untitled (History of the Black People)’, from 1983, shows an Egyptian boat gliding down the River Nile, guided by Osiris (the Egyptian deity of the dead). The sickle in the centre of the painting is a direct reference to the American slave trade, and the painting is regarded as a challenge to the general conception of Egypt as the birth of Western civilization. It also features several images of the Nubians, who with their darker skin colour were deemed slaves by the Egyptians.

Basquiat's piece, 'Irony Of Negro Policemen' (1981) was intended to illustrate how African-Americans had been effectively controlled by Caucasians; in the painting, the police officer in question is demonstrated as a large figure, in order to demonstrate his power, and yet his body is displayed as fragile and broken, to illustrate what Basquiat saw as the irony of such an allegiance.

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