Jean-Michel Basquiat aka “SAMO” was an American street artist who dignified the existence of ethnic minorities through his art.
During his lifetime, Basquiat achieved notable notoriety, becoming a prototype of an eccentric and controversial artistic genius, rebelling in the arts, but also in money, fame and power.
Basquiat 's origins can be found in New York in 1960, being the world capital of Abstract Expressionism and one of the most powerful centers of art and culture of the moment. This was demonstrated at the Universal Exhibition of the World's Fair in New York in 1964 or the cultural growth of the neighborhood of Greenwich Village, which ended up becoming the famous district of Soho in 1973.
Basquiat, although a child of his time, was born into a multicultural family, but also poorly structured. His father was an accountant of Haitian origin, and his mother a graphic designer born in Puerto Rico.
The parents' divorce was surely the first element of instability in Basquiat's life.
Although Basquiat showed signs of being a gifted young man, and for that reason he studied at a special education school, he was expelled from academic life before graduating. Basquiat's innate rebellion led him to join different gangs after leaving the family home, which is why he ended up wandering the streets of lower Manhattan for two years.
Plunging into the New York subculture, or rather the underground culture, Basquiat took advantage of the opportunity and started selling postcards, and making T-shirts to later sell.
First Art Projects
Along with the aforementioned activities, Basquiat was also immersed in the world of drugs and the art of graffiti. The years went by and Basquiat let himself be dragged along, wandering through subway stations and carrying out his first artistic projects, in the form of graffiti, throughout lower Manhattan.
Fruit of individual ambition and an undeniable vision, Basquiat had the need to want to achieve other goals as the last years of the 70's approached. and thus exhibiting his works in his urban environment.
Graffiti and messages signed by SAMO appear, such as “SAMO save idiots” (SAMO save idiots), “Life is confusing at this point” or “SAMO is a product of overexposure” (SAMO is a product of overexposure). The 70s in New York provided the opening to all possible forms of anti-cultural manifestation, as well as the civil rights movement and the changes in migration policy, turning the city into a great meeting point for different cultures.
A legend is born
As if Basquiat knew the right way, the artist decides to put an end to his alter ego SAMO and starts working on more traditional supports, such as canvases.
Now that “SAMO is dead” Basquiat explores the aesthetics of abstract expressionism and absorbs the influence of primitive art, drawing on his African-American ancestry as a source of inspiration.
All of this leads Basquiat to the beginning of the 1980s, to be widely recognized by the New York art world to the point of renouncing his African-American identity to become a genuine American citizen. Warhol , the founder of Pop Art, becomes the personal protector of the “wild boy” as New York roars with rising crime, drug trafficking and racial tensions.
Basquiat, at the age of 25, had pushed himself to success at an early age.
A new religion for sale
Basquiat 's works are still highly valued in the art market, but why has his success survived so long?
For what the brand “SAMO/ Basquiat” implies.
Basquiat perfected a style and a philosophy of life from a very early age, until he defined the last one through SAMO: “SAMO is in charge of portraying a new form of art, putting an end to brainwashing, politics and false philosophy. SAMO saves the idiots and puts an end to pseudo-intellectual falsehood, SAMO as the end of art as a game. SAMO as an alternative to art as a game with the radical chic sect with his father's money”.
Without a doubt, SAMO was creating a new anti-hypocritical and anti-materialist religion that would eventually become, like all Pop Art, the star product of the American consumer society.
His fame eventually surpassed art.
Despite having lived a really full and full life of ups and downs, Basquiat has gone down in history as an authentic youth Pop icon and as the most important visual artist in African American history.
Perhaps his ability to promote himself within the astute selection of social contacts helped him to achieve this, but the truth is that Basquiat was also a great artist. Both the alter ego SAMO and Basquiat have gone down in art history and the accursed artists archive as mandatory reference figures.
As well as the birth of SAMO acronym for “SAME old shit” referring to marijuana, as well as Basquiat's death at age 27, were connected with drugs. Addiction and heroin use ended his life and his artistic career prematurely.
Today, Basquiat's paintings can be worth up to 15 million dollars. Without counting the aforementioned graffiti in lower Manhattan and Soho, some paintings with religious content stand out, such as Philistines (1982), the painting with the symbol of a crown that will transcend Basquiat's work and then become his brand. personal with the work Crown (1983) or one that reflects the national success of the wild boy of art in In Italian (1983).
Basquiat leaves a permanent development of the culture of its time. As in Notary (1983), Hollywood Africans (1983), Horn Players (1983) and DustHeads (1982).
Basquiat on P55
On P55 you can find works for sale from the following links: