‘The 100’ #18 – Jean-Michel Basquiat

LNAPRK by Basquiat. 1982

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

Man from Naples by Basquiat. 1982

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 Dutch Settlers 1 by Basquiat.

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.


Text in Art 6. – Andy Warhol

Andy Warhol (Andrew Warhola). American. 1928 – 1987. Along with Lichtenstein and Rauschenberg Andy Warhol was a leading figure in the Pop Art movement. Warhol began as a commercial illustrator doing jobs like shoe ads. He first exhibited in an art gallery in 1962, when the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles showed his 32 Campbell’s Soup Cans. Following this, most of Warhol’s best work was done over a span of about six years, finishing in 1968, when a groupie shot him. He almost died, but was eventually killed by a gall-bladder operation in 1987. Warhol became known around the world as a painter, filmmaker, record producer and public figure. His art addressed the world of mass advertising in which human experience is filtered through television, print and images that become banal by endless repetition. Warhol became a media star of understated cool and predicted that everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. He said, “Fame is like peanuts, when you start, you can’t stop.”

As seen in my examples of Warhol’s art, text is used but only as product labeling; much as Lichtenstein’s text only occurs as an inherent part of comic book speech bubbles. Whereas Lissitzky and Picasso consciously incorporated letters and words into their art, the other western artists explored to date synthesized text with their art only when it was a part of the found materials used or as inherent content in their ironic pastiche of the commercial / social world.