Jean-Michel Basquiat was an American artist born in Brooklyn, New York. He gained fame, first as a graffiti artist in New York City, and then as a highly successful avant-garde artist in the international art scene of the 1980s.
In 1977, when he was 17, Basquiat and his friend Al Diaz started spray-painting graffiti art on subway cars and slum buildings in lower Manhattan, adding the infamous signature of SAMO, meaning Same Old Shit. In 1980, he participated in a multi-artist exhibition, sponsored by Collaborative Projects Incorporated and working with artists such as Keith Haring and Barbara Kruger.
Jean-Michel Basquiat used painterly gestures on canvas, most often depicting skeletal figures and mask-like faces that expressed his obsession with mortality, and imagery derived from his street existence, such as automobiles, buildings, police, children’s sidewalk games, and graffiti. As his work evolved, he used writing, collage and seemingly unrelated imagery, but reflect strong interest in his black and Hispanic identity.
In 1983, Jean-Michel Basquiat befriended Andy Warhol and the two made a number of collaborative works. By 1984, Basquiat used excessive drugs and behaved erratically, displaying signs of paranoia. Basquiat appeared on the cover of The New York Times Magazine in a feature entitled “New Art, New Money: The Marketing of an American Artist” in 1985. Warhol’s death in 1987 greatly effected Basquiat. He continued to struggle with his addictions. He soon died of a heroin overdose.