December 22nd, 1960 - August 12, 1988

Jean Michel Basquiat, one of the forefront trendsetting artists of the Pop Art scene in the 80s, is undoubtedly New York City’s own Patron Saint of the Arts.  Born and raised in Brooklyn, of Haitian and Puerto Rican parentage, Basquiat had no formal artistic training when he began his career as a tagger and street artist selling self-made postcards and t-shirts on the lower east side.  Referring to his alter ego artisan self as SAMO (SAME-o), Basquiat’s rise to recognition eventually paired him with the likes of photographer/painter Andy Warhol, and sculptor/award-winning director Julian Schnabel.  His Afro-Caribbean and Latino background were the subject matter of many of his Neo-Expressionist paintings, exposing his deep felt connection to his familial heritage and his roots as an African-American as well.

The Mask

Basquiat passed away from an overdose at the age of 27, unable to personally witness the extent of his own success as a cultural icon, painter, and visual trendsetter.  His highest grossing painting to date sold for more than $14,000,000 at Christie’s in 2008 to Metallica group member Lars Ulrich.  His life story has subsequently been made into a movie titled Basquiat (1996), directed by Julian Schnabel, and a more recent documentary titled Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (2010).

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