Jean-Michel Basquiat was an American graffiti artist, painter and draftsman who was the first African artist succeeding a breakthrough in the world of art, which had mainly been dominated by white artists. His initial painterly work on canvas and paper, Basquiat made rapid success from the 1980s and from that point on he became an international star.
Basquiat comes from a middle-class family home. Jean-Michel Basquiat, born on December 22, 1960 in New York City to a Haitian father and Puerto Rican mother attended the Catholic private school of St. Ann. His artistic talent was obvious from an early age. Starting in 1977, he began his artistic career as a graffiti sprayer and, together with his school friend Al Diaz, decorated the streets of the New York gallery district Soho with poetic and often critical phrases. Soon the New York art scene, especially artists like Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf, who picked up inspiration from the young graffiti scene, came to Basquiat. In 1980, Jean-Michel Basquiat participated in his first exhibition, the Times Square Show. Only one year later with his participation in the exhibition "New York / New Wave" in the P.S.1 he finally made his artistic breakthrough. From then on, he is exhibiting not only in the USA, but also in Europe and Japan. At the age of 21 he is still the youngest participant of the internationally renowned "documenta" in Kassel, to which he was invited in 1982. Two years later, in 1984, he met Andy Warhol, who became his greatest sponsor and close friend. Basquiat traveled a lot and collaborated in the 1980s with international artists such as Salvador Dali, Keith Haring, Joseph Beuys and André Heller. After the death of Andy Warhol in 1987 Basquiat came to a deep crisis, which is also reflected in his late pictures, which address death and dying. On August 12, 1988, Jean-Michel Basquiat died of an overdose of heroin. In Basquiat's often large-scale works we find a contagious unrest that inebriates the viewer with his hectic and voluptuousness, thus providing an insight into the life of the artist, characterized by sensitivity, gloom, loneliness and eccentricity. His artworks often combine colourful, robot-like faces and skulls, delicate chiming lines, word fragments and seemingly naive illustrations.