Eight short years. That’s how long it took Jean-Michel Basquiat to secure his legacy as an art world prodigy.
He died at the age of 27 from a heroin overdose, leaving behind paintings, drawings, and notebooks, many of which explored themes of counterculture American punk, the urban plight of the African diaspora, improvisational jazz music and the vagaries of fame during the Ronald Reagan-era 1980s.
As influential as Basquiat is, most of his work is privately owned and very few public galleries or museums own or exhibit any of his best-known pieces. His paintings very rarely appear at auction and now attract stratospheric prices when they do. In May 2016, Basquiat’s 1982 Untitled painting shattered his auction world record when it was sold for $57.3 million at Christie’s, making him the most financially successful African-American painter in history. Basquiat fanboy (and collector) Jay Z even bragged in his 2013 song Picasso Baby — "It ain’t hard to tell, I’m the new Jean-Michel. Without him, graffiti as an art form would not exist in the way it does today."
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