Culture

Overlooked By Museums While Alive, His Paintings Are Now Auctioning For More than $100 Million

Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat’s rise to fame in the art scene of 1980s New York was nearly as fast as its decline. Born to Haitian and Puerto Rican parents in Brooklyn, New York, Basquiat’s late teens and early 20s were spent living on couches or the streets, all while he developed his voice as an artist. Despite this period of financial struggle, Basquiat’s undeniable talent was earning him a reputation as both an impish street-artist and an up-and-coming voice in NYC’s art community. Within a few years, Basquiat’s pieces were selling for tens of thousands of dollars, attracting collectors from all walks of life. But by the age of 27, Basquiat was dead from a cocaine and opiate overdose.

Demand for Basquiat’s work has risen since his death, as his legacy continues to endure among new generation of art collectors. Here’s a few reasons why Basquiat’s legend continues to grow.

Basquiat’s “Untitled” painting was just auctioned off for a record-breaking $110.5 million.

YUSAKU 2020 / INSTAGRAM

Basquiat’s talents escaped the radar of many major museums during the 1980s, leaving many of his works in the hands of private collectors. Basquiat’s short career means there is a limited supply of his works available, many of which are unknown, even among avid collectors and those closest to him.

The record-breaking “Untitled” painting was so underground that even his sisters had no idea it existed until this year’s auction. The New York Times reported the painting was originally purchased for $19,000 in 1984.

Basquiat’s Puerto Rican mother helped influence Basquiat’s love of the arts.

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At a young age, Basquiat’s mother, Matilde, took him to museums and the theater. By the age of four, his desire to create art was completely on display. A freak car accident sent Basquiat to the hospital. To keep him occupied, his mother gave young Basquiat a copy of the medical diagram book “Grey’s Anatomy.” Later in life, these drawings would play an important role in Basquiat’s paintings.

Basquiat gained a reputation during his homeless period in Washington Square Park.

GIGIMASRIA /  BASQUIATART / INSTAGRAM

When he was 17 years old, Basquiat ran away from his home in Brooklyn, ending up in Manhattan’s Washington Square Park, where he slept and worked, New York magazine reported. Basquiat became well-acquainted with LSD, and other drugs, while making ends meet by selling postcards, sweatshirts, and jewelry to passersby. In Washington Square Park, Basquiat cut an imposing figure, sporting a bleached blond mohawk, no shoes, and a trenchcoat. “His eyes could eat your face,” Phoebe Hoban wrote in her book, “Basquiat.

Around this same time, Basquiat was also developing his skills as a street artist.

OUTSIDER ART FAIR / YOUTUBE

Basquiat and a few friends would scrawl poetic messages (like the one above) on the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Bridge under the name SAMO©. SAMO stood for “Same Old Shit” and was meant to call out bogus aspects of society. His street artistry earned him a reputation among the underground art scene.

Though he was initially known for his street art aesthetic, Basquiat’s paintings were recognized for their neo-expressionist qualities.

#jeanmichelbasquiat Curated by @mrcurator

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Neo-expressionism, which caught on in the 1970s, combined recognizable images, like bodies and faces, with extremes in emotions. Critics of neo-expressionism said the movement was fueled by “angst.” Thomas Lawson, the editor of Real Life Magazine, told the New York Times, ”You can’t tell what the artist is reacting to. It’s not very reflective.” Whether or not neo-expressionism was a fad, the reality is that museums slept on Basquiat during his life, leaving them with few of his works in their collection.

Ann Temkin, curator at the Museum of Modern Art, which does not have a Basquiat work in their collection, told the New York Times, “It’s an artist who we missed. We didn’t bring his paintings into the collection during his life or thereafter.”

Basquiat quickly became one of the hottest stars of New York’s — if not the world’s — art scene.


By 1980, art curator Diego Cortez, a fan of Basquiat’s work, began turning other art collectors on to the young artist. In just a short period of time, Basquiat went from making a few hundred dollars for his work to pulling in upwards of $10,000 for a single piece. Many collectors, who could not afford the extremely expensive artists of the day, were likely to shell out the smaller prices for Basquiat’s work.

Basquiat’s art was displayed in shows around the world — London, Zurich, Paris — earning him more fans, more money, and access to more drugs.

Crew… #basquiat @warholpopart

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As his reputation grew, Basquiat’s personal life became increasingly turbulent. Though he was extremely productive during this time, tales of excessive drug use were extremely common. It was said that Basquiat would work with piles of cocaine next to his latest works. Many of Basquiat’s acquaintances chalked up his drug addictions to his artistry. Andy Warhol, himself sober, who had become friends with Basquiat, tried to discourage the young artist’s excessive drug use. Though Basquiat idolized Warhol, he would often go on destructive binges. These episodes only added to Basquiat’s reputation, which often drove the price of his works among collectors.

Basquiat’s drug overdose at 27 meant that he left behind a limited selection of works for collectors to fight over. And if the most recent, record-breaking auction is any indication, Basquiat’s legend will likely grow among collectors for generations to come.

READ: Here’s How This Traditional Mexican Beverage Is Finding A Home In The United States

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A 9-Year-Old Girl Was Handcuffed And Pepper-Sprayed By New York Police Officers

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A 9-Year-Old Girl Was Handcuffed And Pepper-Sprayed By New York Police Officers

Updated March 10, 2021.

Police brutality is a civil rights violation that has long affected the Black community as well as other minority groups. While the issue has been highlighted extensively by these communities it seems that it’s only been very recently that the general public has developed concern over the issue. This is despite the fact that in so many ways police brutality has not only deeply harmed communities but also sparked major political and social movements such as the civil rights movement of the 1960s and anti-war demonstrations. So much so in fact, the United States has developed an ill-famed reputation for cases of police brutality. Particularly when it comes to the police’s mistreatments and murders of minors like Nolan Davis, Cameron Tillman, and Aiyana Stanley-Jones.

Over the weekend, an incident in Rochester, New York brought attention to the issue once again after body camera showed officers handcuffing and pepper-spraying a 9-year-old girl.

The incident which took place last Friday showed officers brutally restraining a little girl after responding to a call for “family trouble.”

The Rochester Police Department in New York released body camera footage Sunday showing officers handcuffing and pepper-spraying a 9-year-old girl while responding to a call for “family trouble.”

In two disturbing videos, the little girl can be screaming for her father as officers attempt to restrain her. “You’re acting like a child,” a male officer yells at her in the video. “I am a child,” she screams in reply.

“I’m gonna pepper-spray you, and I don’t want to,” a woman officer warns the girl while attempting to put her feet inside of the police car.

“This is your last chance. Otherwise pepper spray is going in your eyeballs,” the officer adds.

The girl begged the officers not to spray her before they did.

Once pepper-sprayed, she cried, “It went in my eyes, it went in my eyes.” The child and her family, nor any of the officers involved in the incident have yet to be identified.

“I’m not going to stand here and tell you that for a 9-year-old to have to be pepper-sprayed is OK,” Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan of Rochester said at a press conference Sunday. “It’s not. I don’t see that is who we are as a department.”

This incident isn’t the first for the Rochester Police.

The police department’s top officials resigned last September after protests broke out over the death of Daniel Prude, a Black man who died of asphyxiation after Rochester officers put a hood over his head. Prude’s face had been pinned to the ground by police.

Speaking about the incident Rochester’s Mayor Lovely Warren said that the pepper spray incident was “not something any of us should want to justify.”

Warren said watching the video of the young girl reminded her of her own daughter. “I have a 10-year-old daughter. So she’s a child. She’s a baby,” Warren explained. “And I can tell you that this video, as a mother, is not anything that you want to see. I saw my baby’s face in her face.”

According to Warren, she has asked for the police chief to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation in relation to the incident. She also noted that she welcomed a review from the police accountability board.

The incident reportedly occurred after officers responding to a report of “family trouble” around 3:21 p.m last Friday. Police reported to the area and were alerted that the 9-year-old girl was “upset” and “suicidal” and had indicated that she “wanted to kill herself and that she wanted to kill her mom.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. You can also text TALK to 741741 for free, anonymous 24/7 crisis support in the US from the Crisis Text Line.

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New York Attorney General Files Lawsuit To Dissolve The National Rifle Association

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New York Attorney General Files Lawsuit To Dissolve The National Rifle Association

The New York attorney general has filed a lawsuit to completely dissolve the National Rifle Association (NRA). The lawsuit is the latest in a series of events weakening the controversial organization since the Parkland shooting.

The NRA is facing a lawsuit because of its financial misdealings.

New York Attorney General Letitia James started a domino effect of lawsuits involving the NRA AG James is suing the organization because of its financial misdeeds focusing on corruption and misspending. The allegations, AG James claims, undermine the organization’s ability to claim to be a nonprofit.

AG James’ lawsuit is bringing attention to NRA’s Wayne LaPierre’s use of funds.

AG James’ lawsuit is pointing out various tax violations and is currently a civil case. However, the New York AG is not stopping there. If criminal issues are discovered, AG James will follow through.

“It’s an ongoing investigation,” she said during a press conference. “If we uncover any criminal activity, we will refer it to the Manhattan district attorney. At this point in time we’re moving forward, again, with civil enforcement.”

The NRA is denouncing the charges claiming they aren’t relevant.

AG James made investigating the NRA part of her campaign in 2018 and referred to the organization as a terrorist organization.

“The foreclosure crisis is not behind us, students debt is a major issue, health care is a challenge since they repealed the individual mandate, people are having a difficult time with premiums that have increased and are often times deciding to go without medicine because of the costs, resulting in premature death and gun violence,” AG James told Ebony Magazine during her campaign. “The NRA holds [itself] out as a charitable organization, but in fact, [it] really [is] a terrorist organization.”

Shortly after AG James filed her lawsuit, Washington’s attorney general followed suit.

AG Karl Racine is going after the NRA for misusing charitable funds. Essentially, the NRA is being accused in Washington of taking money meant for educational programs and spent them on themselves. The Washington lawsuit and New York lawsuit are honing in on the NRA’s years of fraudulent use of funds. It comes at a time when the NRA is already fighting for its life after the teenagers of Parkland launched a successful campaign in slowing and reversing the organization’s growth in the political sphere.

READ: Florida Passed Their First Gun Safety Measure In More Than 20 Years And The NRA Has Already Filed A Lawsuit

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