Jean Michel Basquiat

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Jean Michel Basquiat
Self-portrait as a Heel Part Two artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat

Self-portrait as a Heel Part Two

Born: 12/22/1960
Location: New York City, United States
Died: 08/12/1988
Age: 27
Movements Graffiti
Contemporary Art
Nationality American
Expertise Graffiti

A New York City native, Jean Michel Basquiat grew up during the 1960s. His mother fostered his artistic talents, and he eventually became one of the most well-known graffiti artists of his time.

Personal life

Jean Michel Basquiat was born in 1960. His father, Gerard Basquiat, was an accountant from Haiti who was adept at playing tennis and known for his expensive lifestyle. His mother, Matilde Andrades, was a Puerto Rican immigrant. Basquiat ran away from home at an early age, becoming homeless and sleeping on the couches of friends. Although his circumstances were dim, he always had high hopes and ambitions. He was the oldest child in the family. His sister Lisane was four years younger, and his other sister Jeanine was seven years younger than he. By the age of four, he was reading and writing. By the age of eleven, he was fluent in English, French, and Spanish. His mother encouraged his interest in art and fostered it by taking him to Manhattan to view various artworks. She enrolled him at the Brooklyn Museum of Art as a junior member, which exposed him to a multitude of artistic techniques, practices, and disciplines. She also encouraged and boosted his artistic ability by giving him the famous book, Gray’s Anatomy, during his month-long recovery from a car accident. His extravagant lifestyle included designer clothes and drugs. His drug habit grew along with his fame and income. He died in 1988 from a heroin overdose.


Jean Michel Basquiat was adept at cartoon drawings, comics, and graffiti. He was recognized for the masterful graffiti he drew on Manhattan’s subways and buildings, which he tagged SAMO. As recognition of his art became widespread, Basquiat enjoyed popularity and fame. He participated in exhibitions in the United States as well as Europe. His first exhibition was held in SoHo, New York, at the Annina Nosei Gallery. Basquiat’s first paintings to become well known were Jim Crow and Undiscovered Genius of the Mississippi Delta. These portrayed racially influenced themes and imagery that supported those themes. Per Capita, Price of Gasoline in the Third World, and Eyes and Egg were painted around the themes of economic inequality, capitalism, and exploitation. Spiritual themes permeated the well-known La Colomba and Riding with Death paintings.

Fun Facts

  • Basquiat was discovered by New York Mayor Koch’s Commissioner of Cultural Affairs, Henry Geldzahler.
  • Basquiat formed a rock band in 1979 called Test Pattern, later renamed Gray. The band received recognition and exposure playing at the CBGB and the Mudd Club.

Related Artists


Jean Michel Basquiat: Examples of Artwork

Trumpet 1984 artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat

Trumpet 1984

Hollywood Africans 1983 graffiti artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat

Hollywood Africans 1983

Dustheads 1982 artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat

Dustheads 1982