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Jean-Michel Basquiat Prints

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Born in Brooklyn, New York, Jean-Michel Basquiat was the second of four siblings. His father was an immigrant Haitian and mother of Puerto Rican origin. This perhaps explained his fluency in Spanish and French, besides English.

At a very young age, Basquiat displayed an inherent talent for art. His mother was quick to spot this and egged on by her encouragement, he learnt to draw and paint.She took him to art exhibitions in the New York City Museum and before long he became a Junior Member at the Brooklyn Museum - at the tender age of six!

At age eight, he was knocked down by a car while playing on the streets with his friends. It resulted in a broken arm and other internal injuries. His spleen had to be removed surgically and while recuperating, his mother gave him a copy of the book ‘Gray’s Anatomy’ so he could have something to read. The book influenced him so much that it reflected in his later artistic endeavors.

The same year, his parents got a divorce and Basquiat and his sisters were left in his father’s care. They lived in Brooklyn, moved to Puerto Rico for a brief period and then back to New York. His mother was declared mentally unstable and was sent to an institution. At age eighteen, he dropped out of school and his angry father sent him away from home. He lived with his friends in Brooklyn. He sold T-shirts and oddments to support himself.

Basquiat and a friend, Al Diaz, started painting graffiti on walls and buildings and used the pseudonym SAMO (for ‘Same Old Shit’), in 1976. Two years later he went to work for a clothing warehouse’s art department and continued to be SAMO at night. One night, Harvey Russack, who owned the warehouse, spotted Basquiat painting graffiti and struck a friendship with him and gave him a day job. Soon his friendship with Diaz ended and the walls of SoHo bore the inscription “SAMO IS DEAD”.
Basquiat appeared on a TV shows hosted by Glenn O’Brien in 1979 and then on was regularly on live TV for a few years.He started a rock band with friends the same year, called Test Pattern and later nameditGray. The band played at “Wednesdays at A’s”, He also got to show his color SAMO work there. It was then that Basquiat met Andy Warhol in a restaurant and showed him some of his paintings. Warhol was dumbfounded by what he sawand the rest is history- it led to their collaboration, later.

Basquiat broke through as a solo artist in the early 80s after participating in the Times Square Show. The same year, he became a member at the Anina Nosei gallery. There, in the basementhe worked toset up his debut one-man show. It was eventually held in March of 1981 and was a resounding success. Later, in December, the Artforum magazine published an article, “The Radiant Child”, by Rene Ricardwhich drew the limelight on Basquiat, in the art world.

In 1983, he held his second show in Hollywood. Madonna, then an aspiring singer on the verge of a breakthrough, was his girlfriend at the time. He also worked with David Bowie. He made a 12 inch rap single with hip-hop artists and he featured his art work on the record cover. It became a hit with record collectors as well as art lovers. Basquiat collaborated with Warhol between 1983and 85 to produce a series of paintings, at the behest of Bruno Bischofberger, a Swiss art dealer.

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s rise from the inferior New York scene to the international art circuit,to become a celebrated artist was phenomenal. Although he was a popular artist of the era, his dependence on heroin started to affect his personal relations.He even boasted of his capability to take high doses of the drug.
Eventually after Warhol’s death in early 1987, he became a lonely person and his heroin addiction grew and so did his depression. On August 12, 1988, he did an overdose of heroin and passed into a slumber from which he never woke up. Jean-Michel Basquiat thus went into eternal rest.

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