Jean-Michel Basquiat: A Brief History
If you took a look at his resume, you wouldn’t believe that Jean-Michel Basquiat was only 27 when he died of a heroin overdose. He was a graffiti artist, painter, musician, performer, and producer, and he was successful in every area.
Basquiat was born in Brooklyn in 1960. His mother picked up on his unique mind when he was barely out of diapers, and she took him to museums whenever possible.
Those museum-going days came to an end when eight-year-old Jean-Michel was hit by a car. He suffered numerous injuries. To distract him from his long days stuck in bed, Basquiat’s mother bought him Gray’s Anatomy. He loved the book and read it over and over again.
Needless to say, Basquiat and his mother had a strong bond. That too, would come to an end.
For many reasons, including a tumultuous relationship with Basquiat’s father, she was committed to a mental institution when Basquiat was thirteen. Over the next two years, she was in and out of various institutions and mother and son saw each other less and less frequently. When he was sixteen, he dropped out of high school and his father consequently banned him from the household.
Basquiat first became known for his graffiti art. As he began exhibiting his art and making talk show appearances, he found his way into both film and music. He collaborated with famous artists across mediums: he painted with Andy Warhol, who became one of his dearest friends, and produced music with David Bowie. He even dated Madonna before she was Madonna. She was his date for his first Los Angeles art opening.
All the while, he was struggling with a heroin addiction.
In 1987, he was on the cover of The New York Times magazine. He seemed unstoppable. But around this time his heroin use was starting to take a more obvious toll. After Andy Warhol died, he reached a point of depression that became unbearable.
He finally went into treatment in Hawaii, but it was too late.
On August 12, 1988, at the age of 27, Jean-Michel Basquiat died of a heroin overdose at his art studio.
His premature death is heartbreaking when one thinks of the volume and quality he could have contributed during a long life, but Basquiat’s creative output matched that of a much older man. In his short life, he heavily influenced artistic culture and inspired others to reach their own creative potentials.