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Spotlight: Jean-Michel Basquiat | Poet, Musician, Artist

Jean-Michel Basquiat was a self-taught poet, musician, and graffiti phenomenon from the late 1970s. He was born in Brooklyn, New York on December 22, 1960. His source of inspiration came from his diverse culture and heritage, with his father being Haitian-American and his mother being Puerto Rican. At an early age, Basquiat drew on paper that his father brought home from the office, while his mother encouraged him go after his artistic talents.

In the late 1970s, Basquiat’s graffiti piece, “SAMO”, that was created in New York City is one of his first pieces that got him noticed. He decided to drop out of high school in 1977, which was one year before he was supposed to graduate. He started selling sweatshirts and postcards on the streets of New York with his artwork on them to make money. Basquiat struggled for three years before his work brought him fame in 1980. His artwork consists of stick figures, words, symbols, and animals, which brought out the critics. But, his paintings soon started being admired by art lovers who had no problem paying up to $50,000 for art. Basquiat partnered with another famous artist, Andy Warhol, in the mid 1980’s, that featured a series of business logos and cartoon characters.

With fame came the problems. Basquiat had a drug addiction that his friends became worried about. He isolated himself from the world for a while and then decided to go to Hawaii to quit his heroin addiction, but that didn’t work. On August 12, 1988, Basquiat died from a drug overdose. Jean-Michel Basquiat’s artwork has been credited to the African-American and Latino experience in the top art world.

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