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The legend of Jean-Michel Basquiat is as strong as ever. Synonymous with 1980s New York, the artist first appeared in the late 1970s under the tag SAMO, spraying caustic comments and fragmented poems on the walls of the city. He appeared as part of a thriving underground scene of visual arts and graffiti, hip hop, post-punk, and DIY filmmaking, which met in a booming art world. As a painter with a strong personal voice, Basquiat soon broke into the established milieu, exhibiting in galleries around the world.
Basquiat’s expressive style was based on raw figures and integrated words and phrases. His work is inspired by a pantheon of luminaries from jazz, boxing, and basketball, with references to arcane history and the politics of street life―so when asked about his subject matter, Basquiat answered “royalty, heroism and the streets.” In 1983 he started collaborating with the most famous of art stars, Andy Warhol, and in 1985 was on the cover of The New York Times Magazine. When Basquiat died at the age of 27, he had become one of the most successful artists of his time.