Skip to main content Skip to Search Box
Summary Article: Basquiat, Jean-Michel
From The Columbia Encyclopedia

(bäs´´kē-ät'), 1960–88, American painter, b. Brooklyn, N.Y. Born into a middle-class Haitian and Puerto Rican family, he was a 1980s art star whose rise and fall were rapid, dramatic, and emblematic of the era. A rebel, high-school dropout, and part of the downtown New York scene, he was influenced by the violence of street life, the variety of African-American life, multiculturalism, and the emerging hip-hop culture. He was also strongly influenced by the life and work of Andy Warhol, who became his mentor, and by the work of such artists as Picasso, Matisse, and Cy Twombly. Basquiat started as a graffiti artist, making images and writing slogans on the walls of buildings and on painted T-shirts, found-object assemblages, and paintings. In the early 1980s he was “discovered” by the art establishment, and his vigorously spontaneous works in paint, collage, and crayon on unprimed canvas, featuring crude, angry, and rawly powerful figures and graffitilike written text, were much sought after by collectors. He died of a heroin overdose at the age of 27. By the early years of the 21st cent. he was hailed as one of the finest American neoexpessionists of his era.

  • See biography by P. Hoban (1998);.
  • studies by R. Marshall (1992), L. Emmerling (2003), and M. Mayer, ed. (2005);.
  • exhibition catalogs by D. Buchart. ed. (2014) and F. Sirmans (2014).
The Columbia Encyclopedia, © Columbia University Press 2018

Related Articles

Full text Article Basquiat, Jean-Michel (1960–1988)
Encyclopedia of Activism and Social Justice

Neo-Expressionist painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, a controversial member of the New York art scene, was known for his accessible works that...

Full text Article Basquiat, Jean-Michel (1960 - 1988)
The Thames & Hudson Dictionary of Art and Artists

U.S. painter of Haitian and Puerto Rican parentage who first started making graffiti with magic-markers on walls of buildings...

See more from Credo