#QueerHeroes Day 23 – Jean-Michel Basquiat

#QueerHeroes Day 23
Jean-Michel Basquiat

Basquiat was born in Brooklyn in the 60s. Poor and often homeless in his youth, he and a friend began collaborating on graffiti murals downtown under the name SAMO.

SAMO became an underground celebrity. Soon, a homeless Basquiat went from selling paintings and tee shirts on the streets to selling paintings for thousands.

From World of Wonder:

“Basquiat’s big break came with a gallery show in 1981. He presented 15 pieces on lumber and foam rubber found in the rubbish. The pieces were filled with childlike drawings of cars and cartoon characters. All of the work sold at the opening. A demand for original Basquiats only grew stronger and they sold as fast as he could paint them, going for $5,000 – $10,000.”

His work teemed with a rage and rebellion that’s cathartic to look at, but he was more than just a painter. He was a poet, a musician, and an overall creative force. A running theme throughout his work is the dichotomy that inequality foists upon society: rich and poor, black and white, etc, as well as offering a visual representation of the torment colonization unleashes onto its victims.

Legends like fellow graffiti artist Keith Haring and Andy Warhol became his lifelong friends. Warhol was particularly inspired by his work, so much that the two did a joint show at Palladium.

Basquiat died of a heroin overdose at 27, but his work lives on forever. This bio isn’t nearly thorough enough to honor his legacy, so I wholeheartedly encourage you to research him further.

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