Jean-Michel Basquiat’s life may have ended in a tragedy, especially at such a young age, but his contribution to the art world is anything but tragic.
Born in 1960 to an American-Puerto Rican mother and a Haitian father, Basquiat’s talent and affinity for art were evident early in his life. His mother would always bring him to art museums and enrolled him in an arts-oriented school.
Things took a turn, however, when his parents separated when he was nine years old. At age 17, he dropped out of high school and left home. He slept on the streets, in abandoned buildings, or, if he was fortunate enough, stayed with friends in Brooklyn.
His passion for art did not waver, though. He made a living by selling shirts and homemade postcards, while also beginning a graffiti campaign together with friend Al Diaz. They did their work in New York under the project SAMO.
His work received widespread attention and began to emerge as one of the most well-known artists in the Neo-expressionism and Punk Art movements. Notable art critic Rene Ricard’s article on Basquiat for Artforum magazine helped jumpstart the young New York artist’s swift rise to fame.
It ended as quickly as it started, unfortunately, when Basquiat was found dead at his start studio due to heroin overdose. He was only 27 years old when he passed away.
Still, his legacy in the art industry remains intact, serving as inspiration for contemporary artists.