The Illness: Jean-Michel Basquiat

Brooklyn-born artist Jean-Michel Basquiat delved into art at the early age of 5. With a Puerto Rican mother and a Haitian father, Basquiat was uniquely aware of his culture and history. In 1968, a serious accident confined Jean-Michel to a bed and his mother gave the young artist a copy of Gray’s Anatomy to pass the time. The drawings and medical diagrams made a lasting impression that became very prevalent in his art.

Untitled (Skull), 1981

Basquiat, Untitled (Skull), 1981

Basquiat’s distinctive artistic style continued to form and evolve to include all of his interests and express all of his concerns, by blending elements of the African Diaspora with his own brand of symbolism. Themes of justice, equality, cultural identity and heritage permeated his grotesque works. Soon Jean-Michel Basquiat was discovered by New York City art critics and as his fame steadily rose he began to show his work in New York, California, Europe and Japan.

Basquiat, Zydeco, 1984

Basquiat, Zydeco, 1984

Drug abuse and the death of his close friend Andy Warhol drove Jean-Michel Basquiat into a paranoid haze and in 1988, at the age of 27, he died of an overdose of heroin and cocaine. Basquiat’s legacy lives on through his pieces that sell for millions of dollars, and the work of the many artists he has influenced.


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