Jean-Michel Basquiat is a wonderfully gifted enigma. His artwork has helped to define the innovation, rebellion, and ambiguity of our time in living color. A product of Haitian and Puerto Rican lineage, Basquiat was born in Brooklyn, New York, on December 22, 1960. High spirited but misunderstood as a youth, Basquiat turned to art to find a release from a world he felt didn't make sense.
Basquiat dropped out of Edward R. Murrow High School in the tenth grade and then attended City-As-School, an alternative high school in Manhattan home to many art students who failed at conventional schooling. His father banished him from the household for dropping out of high school, and Basquiat stayed with friends in Brooklyn. He supported himself by selling T-shirts and homemade postcards for a time before eventually, finding success in selling his art.
Basquiat's first public exhibition was in the group effort The Times Square Show (with David Hammons, Jenny Holzer, Lee Quiñones, Kenny Scharf and Kiki Smith among others), held in a vacant building at 41st Street and Seventh Avenue, New York. In late 1981, Basquiat joined the Annina Nosei gallery in SoHo; his first one-person exhibition was in 1982 at that gallery. By then, he was regularly showing alongside other Neo-expressionist artists including Julian Schnabel, David Salle, Francesco Clemente and Enzo Cucchi. He was represented in Los Angeles by the Gagosian gallery and throughout Europe by Bruno Bischofberger.
Basquiat came to the mainstream after a chance meeting with art legend, Andy Warhol, at a nearby restaurant in New York City. With the help of Warhol's support, Basquiat was catapulted into stardom, becoming a prominent figure in neo-expressionist art in the New York art scene during the 80s. He was a successful artist in this period, but his growing heroin addiction began to interfere with his success. On August 12th, 1988, Basquiat died from a heroin overdose after a failed rehab attempt in Hawaii.
Today Basquiat's paintings and artwork sell for millions and are considered some of the most valuable works of art in the world. Celebrate the life and legacy of Basquiat for Black History Month by watching the autobiographical movie, Basquiat, starring Jeffrey Wright.
Khufere Qhamata, is the founder of the SMAART INCUBATOR, a serial entrepreneur, and dedicated futurist. He is chief executive of Leap72, a strategic innovation consultancy advising corporations on how to use startup economics to grow and compete for the future. He is also a co-founder and board member of Academy M, a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit specializes in the mentorship and career development of millennials. You can follow him on Linkedin.