Arguably the most famous American street graffiti writer who became a wildly successful gallery artist was Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960 –1988). In 1976 Basquiat and friends spray painted buildings in Lower Manhattan using the tag, SAMO. In 1978 the Village Voice published an article about the graffiti, leading in 1979 to Basquiat’s appearance on the live TV show ‘TV Party’ hosted by Glenn O’Brian. O’Brien introduced Basquiat to Andy Warhol and the two became friends and collaborators.
Continuing his activities as a graffiti artist, Basquiat often incorporated words into his paintings. Before his career as a painter began, he produced punk-inspired postcards for sale on the street, and become known for his political–poetical graffiti. He would often draw on random objects and surfaces and typically covered them with text and codes of all kinds: words, letters, numerals, pictograms, logos, map symbols and diagrams
Artforum magazine published an article on Basquiat in 1981, called “The Radiant Child” which brought Basquiat to the attention of the art world and by 1982 Basquiat was showing regularly with famous gallery Neo-expressionist artists such as Julian Schnabel and David Salle. When Andy Warhol died in 1987, Basquiat became increasingly isolated, and his heroin addiction and depression grew more severe. Basquiat died on August 12, 1988, of a heroin overdose at his art studio in New York.
The record price for a Basquiat painting was made on May 15, 2007, when an untitled Basquiat sold at Sotheby’s in New York for $14.6 million US.
In 1996, a biographic film, titled ‘Basquiat’ was released, directed by Julian Schnabel, with actor Jeffrey Wright playing Basquiat and David Bowie playing Andy Warhol.