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Really often art and drugs go together. The famous artist Jean-Michel Basquiat also couldn’t separate these two.

Modern art representative become famous for his graffiti paintings which covered NY walls in the late 70’s and in 1981 he for the first time tried to paint on the canvas. Since then Jean-Michel became widely known and financially successful artist. He reached the top of his career at the age of 25. Sadly he couldn’t enjoy his glory for the long time. Jean-Michel died because of drug overdose when he was 27 years old.

The glory of SAMO

Jean-Michel Basquiat was the first African-American artist who became internationally famous and invaded the contemporary art world. He was also known as the SAMO, who was leaving short significant messages on the walls. Today his paintings in the auctions are sold for the incredibly large amounts of money.

J. M. Basquiat works are exhibited in the most famous museums, such like NY “Whitney“ in the Madison Avenue, but most of the paintings belong to private collections.  His works that are marketed in the Christie and Sotheby auctions are priced for millions of dollars.

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“Basquiat speaks articulately while dodging the full impact of clarity like a matador. We can read his pictures without strenuous effort—the words, the images, the colors and the construction—but we cannot quite fathom the point they belabor. Keeping us in this state of half-knowing, of mystery-within-familiarity, had been the core technique of his brand of communication since his adolescent days as the graffiti poet SAMO. To enjoy them, we are not meant to analyze the pictures too carefully. <…> He painted a calculated incoherence, calibrating the mystery of what such apparently meaning-laden pictures might ultimately mean.” (Marc Mayer, Basquiat in History)

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Crumbles of biography

Jean-Michel Basquiat was born in the NY, Brooklyn, in the 1960s and he was real American loft generation kid. He was born and grew up just in time when NY and especially loft blocks of artists were very popular. His rise coincided with the emergence of a new art movement, Neo-Expressionism, ushering in a wave of new, young and experimental artists that included Julian Schnabel and Susan Rothenberg.

Jean-Michel started his artist career in the streets when he painted graffiti on the walls of Manhattan and on the T-shirts or elsewhere he thought it is right. At that time the art of graffiti was particularly fashionable and financially profitable that the persons who were involved in such art were just hunted by the New York galleries.

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Three years of struggle gave way to fame in 1980 when his work was featured in a group show. His work and style received critical acclaim for the fusion of words, symbols, stick figures, and animals. Soon his paintings became so popular that the art loving public had no problem in paying so much as $50,000 for a Basquiat original.

At the same time he collaborated with the famous pop artist Andy Warhol and this collaboration resulted in a show that featured a series of corporate logos and cartoon characters.

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Creation work

Jean Michel Basquiat works include graffiti and expressionistic painting. He also often included texts and imagery from tabloids into his paintings. It is interesting that most of his paintings were painted on the found objects such as old boards and furniture.

Over a decade-long career, Jean-Michel had time to do quite a lot: he starred in the famous “GQ Magazine“ writer and scenarist Glenn O’Brien film, appeared in the legendary group’s “Blondie“ clip, collaborated with such a celebrities like Madonna, Andy Warhol, David Bowie, Julian Schnabel, Francesco Clemente and many other commercial art industry celebrities. Jean-Michel Basquiat works were shown in the series of New York’s art galleries, clubs, lofts and other urban areas.

“SAMO marked the witty sayings of a precocious and worldly teenage mind that, even at that early juncture, saw the world in shades of gray, fearlessly juxtaposing corporate commodity structures with the social milieu he wished to enter: the predominately white art world.” (Franklin Sirmans, In the Cipher: Basquiat and Hip Hop Culture)

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Sad ending

As his popularity grew, so did Basquiat’s personal problems. By the mid-1980s, his friends became increasingly concerned with his excessive drug use. Jean-Michel became paranoid and isolated himself from the world around him for long periods of time. Desperate to fight the heroin addiction, he left New York for Hawaii in 1988, returned a few months later and claimed to be sober.

Unfortunately, he wasn’t. Basquiat died of a drug overdose on August 12, 1988, in New York City. He was 27 years old. Although his art career was brief, Jean-Michel Basquiat has been praised for bringing the African-American and Latino experience in the elite world of art.

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