Hint Tip: Jean-Michel Basquiat

On what would have been Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 50th birthday, a massive retrospective of the troubled artist’s oeuvre has just opened at the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris. Organized chronologically, “Basquiat” (on view through January 30, 2011) offers a rare view of the child-like, rough-hewn, Neo-Expressionist style he pioneered during the headiness of 1980s New York.

Born in Brooklyn, Basquiat started off spray-painting graffiti on buildings in lower Manhattan, tagging it with “SAMO,” short for “Same Old Shit.” The self-taught artist 
became the first African-American painter to reach international stardom. Before his death from a heroin overdose in 1988, at the age of 27, he had begun collaborating with Andy Warhol, briefly dated a still-unknown Madonna and would famously show up at parties straight from his studio in paint-splattered $1000 Armani suits.

Basquiat drew inspiration from his multicultural background and his everyday life. While his celebrity often overshadowed his work in the larger-than-life artistic landscape of the time, the themes he explored—racism, consumerism, class struggle, mortality—are being felt to this day, their meaning still unsettling and still unsettled.

Visit Musée d’Art Moderne

Leave a comment