© 2021 KMUW
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Art Review

An Artist's Perspective: Jean-Michel Basquiat


Jean-Michel Basquiat died of a heroin overdose at age 27 in 1988 after having been a professional artist for only 7 years.

At age 15 he ran away from home and lived in a cardboard box, in a park in New York City. African American, too young, with a tangle of Dreadlocks and paint-spattered clothes that scared the hell out of white Manhattanites, he scraped to make his art and make the world see it.

With no formal art training, and unfamiliar with trite art-speak, he flew into the faces of mud-stuck academics, chilly gallery owners, and art critic gods like Hilton Kramer, who loudly pronounced him "talentless".

His work was first sold by New York gallerist Anina Nosei, who told her clients that Jean-Michel's art was the "voice of the gutter".

Untitled, 1982, Jean-Michel Basquiat

He used pure drive and natural talent to attempt further gains into an art culture that was never even close to being something he could truly be a part of. And when Andy Warhol befriended him the media called Basquiat "an art world mascot."

This scorned young man, who, on May 8th of this year, became radiant with a painting sold at auction for more than $110 million, the most expensive work sold by an American artist in all of history.

If art success is sadly measured in money, as it is by philistines, the nouveau riche, and auction houses then I suggest that they bow before their unwanted king. The king has burned the golden palace. May the king now rest in peace.