Basquiat: What You Should Know Before Seeing Boom for Real

If you live in London or you just simply enjoy the world of art and exhibitions, you will surely know that this year Barbican has blessed us with an exhibition about artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, Basquiat: Boom for Real

If you, like me, enjoy getting to know a bit of history behind the artist prior visit to the exhibition, you will find Basquiat's life story of huge interest. 

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The story

Jean-Michel Basquiat influence in New York rose during the late '70s, when the street graffiti artist swiftly moved from his "downtown" origins to the international gallery circuit. He quickly became one of the most renowned "naif" painters of the "Neo-Expressionism" art movement. Born in Brooklyn, but of Haitian and Puerto Rican heritage, Basquiat showed a great talent for painting since an early age. After a dramatic childhood, he dropped out of school at the age of 18 to later become the artist known to everyone today.

Basquiat’s art was fundamentally rooted in the 1970s, New York City-based graffiti movement. In 1972, he and an artist friend, Al Diaz, started spray-painting buildings in Lower Manhattan under the nom de plume, SAMO, an acronym for “Same Old Shit”.

After the failing of SAMO, Basquiat kept surviving on the streets, homeless, by dealing drugs and peddling hand painted cards and t-shirts. In 1980, Basquiat met Andy Warhol in a restaurant where the artists remained stunned by Basquiat's talent. Soon after, Basquiat namewas everywhere and he started exhibiting in New York and abroad: Annina Nosei's gallery was where he had hist first solo exhibition. He collaborated with artists of the likes of Blondie, David Bowie and Andy Warhol. 

He died of heroin overdose at the early age of 27. 

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In his short and largely troubled life, Jean-Michel Basquiat nonetheless came to play an important and historic role in the rise of Punk Art and Neo-Expressionism in the New York art scene. While the larger public latched on to the superficial exoticism of his work and were captivated by his overnight celebrity, his art, often described inaccurately as “naif” and “ethnically gritty”, held important connections to expressive precursors, such as Jean Dubuffet and Cy Twombly.

Basquiat: Boom for Real is open at Barbican until 28 January 2018