1. SAMO's dead

Jean-Michel Baquiat was born in Brooklyn on December 22, 1960 to a Haitian-American father and a Puerto Rican mother. From a young age, the artist displayed a talent for art, spending his school years attending exhibtions in New York with his parents. Basquiat left school before graduating, and along with fellow artist Al Diaz he began tagging buildings in Lower Manhattan under the name SAMO, which was an acronym for "Same Old Shit." In order to fund his art, he sold sweatshirts and postcards which featured his artwork.

Basquiat and Haring at Club 57 Image via the Estate of Keith Haring Basquiat and Haring at Club 57
Image via the Estate of Keith Haring

Image via stencilrevolution.com Image via stencilrevolution.com

Basquiat and Diaz eventually parted ways following a argument. Basquiat reacted by scrawling SAMO IS DEAD on SoHo galleries and buildings downtown. His contemporary street artist Keith Haring held a 'wake' for SAMO at Club 57.

2. Gray's Anatomy

As a child, Basquiat was hit by a car which caused him to have to have surgery to remove his spleen. During his time in hospital he read Gray's Anatomy. With it's sinewy illustrationss, the book would go on to be a great influence on Basquiat's work.

Henry Gray (1825–1861). Anatomy of the Human Body. 1918. Image via Bartleby Henry Gray (1825–1861). Anatomy of the Human Body. 1918.
Image via Bartleby

With his mixed heritage, Basquiat was fluent in French and Spanish, as well as English. He read the poetry of the French symbolists which also went on to influence the work he produced later in his life.

3. Dizzy Gillespie, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Muhammad Ali

Dizzy Gillespie, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Muhammad Ali were often the subjects of Basquiat's Neo-Expressionist works. Rather then trying to capture their physical appearance, Basquiat captured the spirits of these icons.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (Boxer) Sold at Christie's for $13 522 500 2008 Post-War & Contemporary sale Image via Christie's Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (Boxer)
Sold at Christie's for $13 522 500 2008 Post-War & Contemporary sale
Image via Christie's

Basquiat once commented: ''The black person is the protagonist in most of my paintings. I realized that I didn't see many paintings with black people in them.''

4. Blondie's DJ

In 1979, Basquiat formed the band Test Pattern, which would later be called Gray. The band performed in nightclubs including CBGB, Hurrah and Mudd Club. Basquiat represented a new mergence between Pop music and art even appearing as a DJ in the music video for Blondie's Rapture, a role rumoured to originally have been intended for Grandmaster Flash.

5. Paint it Black

During the early 1980s, Basquiat was in a relationship with Madonna. The pair, who were both on the edge of fame at the time, had a dramatic break-up which lead to Basquiat reportedly asking for the artworks he had given to Madonna to be returned to him. Madonna claimed that when she did return them, Basquiat painted over them in black.

kqtaanwxnkodr9dxvqyu Madonna and Jean-Michel Basquiat
Image via art-sheep.com

Madonna and Jean-Michel Basquiat Image via art-sheep.com Madonna and Jean-Michel Basquiat
Image via art-sheep.com

6. The Griot

The griot, a bard figure from West African storytelling, appears in Basquiat's work. The griot often appears in the artist's pieces with a grimace and his squinting eyes fixed on the viewer.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Gold Griot, 1984 Image via Sotheby's Jean-Michel Basquiat, Gold Griot, 1984
Image via Sotheby's

7. Jay Z, Frank Ocean and ASAP Rocky

Basquiat himself, has posthumously inspired contemporary Rap and Hip-Hop. In Jay Z and Frank Ocean's song Oceans from the 2013 Magna Carta Holy Grail album, reference the artist: "I hope my black skin don't dirt this white tuxedo before the Basquiat show."

In ASAP Rocky's song Phoenix he also reference Basquiat: "Painting vivid pictures/call me Basquiat, Picasso."

Beyonce dressed as Frida Kahlo and Jay Z dressed as Jean-Michel Basquiat with their daughter Blue Ivy at a Halloween party in 2014 Image via Bossip Beyonce dressed as Frida Kahlo and Jay Z dressed as Jean-Michel Basquiat with their daughter Blue Ivy at a Halloween party in 2014
Image via Bossip

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