Basquiat, East 4th Street, NYC, 1987
Basquiat, East 4th Street, NYC, 1987

Jean-Michel Basquiat (December 22, 1960 – August 12, 1988) was an American artist and the first painter of African descent to become an international art star.[1] He started as a graffiti artist in New York City, and in the 1980s produced Neo-expressionist art. He died of a heroin overdose.

On February 10, 1985, 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".[10]

He used words in the paintings.

Before his career as a painter began he produced punk-inspired postcards for sale on the street, and become known for the political–poetical graffiti under the name of SAMO. On one occasion Basquiat painted his girlfriend's dress, with the words, a "Little Shit Brown".

A middle period from late 1982 to 1985 featured multi-panel paintings and individual canvases with exposed stretcher bars, the surface dense with writing, collage and imagery. 1984-85 was also the main period of the Basquiat–Warhol collaborations.

A major reference source used by Basquiat throughout his career was the book Gray's Anatomy which he was given in the hospital as a child. It remained influential in his depictions of internal human anatomy, and in its mixture of image and text. Other major sources were Dreyfuss' Symbol Sourcebook, Leonardo Da Vinci's notebooks, and Brentjes African Rock Art.

Until 2002, the highest money paid for an original work of Basquiat's was US$3,302,500, set on 12 November 1998 at Christie's.