The Basquiat Effect

What His Record-Breaking Piece Means for his Legacy

Marcus Roberts, Head Writer

Two years ago, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa purchased a piece (‘Untitled’) by the New York-born artist for $110.5 million. Only 10 other works have exceeded the $100 million mark. Basquiat’s work was painted with influence from his childhood and surroundings. 

From a very young age, the child of Puerto Rican/Haitian-descent could fluently speak French, Spanish, and English; his artistic talents were recognized by his mother and father at age 4. A couple years later, he was hit by a car while playing in the street. As a result, he suffered a broken arm and many internal injuries. Multiple surgeries and days in the hospital proved to be too much for the already struggling family, and his parents divorced.  

Jean’s mother, Matilda Andrades, stood beside him. He was fascinated about the human body, so she would bring him books about anatomy. In some of his earliest paintings, bone structures and shapes would be evident. She would also take him to museums and art shows which encouraged his special interest in art.  

When Basquiat lived with his father, he was beaten and abused. Because of this, he decided to live on a park bench in New York, expressing his hatred with graffiti art. He was commonly recognized as SAMO (Same Old Sh**): something he would write beside all his graffiti art.  

When he was living in the lower east side of Manhattan when he saw famous artist Andy Warhol walking into a restaurant. Basquiat took action and followed Warhol in and sold him post cards with his own artistic spin. Warhol loved Basquiat’s young mind, and proceeded to teach him more about art. 

Throughout the 80’s and early 90’s Basquiat coincided with Warhol’s fame but with his own artistic footprint. After Basquiat’s death, famous pieces like Profit I ($5.5 million), Untitled (Fallen Angel) ($11.2 million), and Dustheads ($48.8 million) began to be auctioned. But nothing could surpass the price for Untitled ($110.5 million) last year. This price tag broke multiple records: Most Expensive work for an American artist, Most Expensive piece for an African-American artist, and Most Expensive piece sold since 1980. 

Basquiat’s art can be seen throughout the entire world; his distinctive crown can be seen on Lebron James’s Instagram, to the New York Sotheby’s art gallery. His influence will forever be remembered in so many ways, but the 110.5-million-dollar piece only expresses it more. 

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