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.


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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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

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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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Ritchie Torres Is Poised To Become The First Out Gay Afro-Latino In Congress After Primary Win

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Ritchie Torres Is Poised To Become The First Out Gay Afro-Latino In Congress After Primary Win

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Primary elections in New York this week ushered in new politicians poised to make history. One of those people is Ritchie Torres, an out Afro-Latino gay man who won his primary for New York’s 15th District.

Ritchie Torres won his primary challenge for the 15th congressional district of New York.

New York City Council Member Torres defeated Rúben Diaz Sr. last night. People are celebrating the victory because Torres, who is openly gay, was running against a very problematic reverend. Diaz, who is also a New York City council member, has billed himself as the opposite of AOC and holds a very conservative view on various social issues.

Diaz has voted against same-sex marriage and routinely speaks out against abortion. One time, according to CBS News, Diaz claimed that the city council was being run by the “homosexual community.”

The fight is not over for Torres.

The council member still has to make it through the November election. He will be running against Republican Orlando Molina in November. However, people are celebrating the historic vote that could put the first-ever openly gay Afro-Latino person into Congress.

New York’s 15th District is called the bluest district in America. That is why someone who supports Trump, opposes abortion, and has a homophobic past leading the field was so shocking to many. The Pentecostal minister made headlines when he refused to resign from the city council after his comments about the “homosexual community.”

Praise and support for Torres came flooding in on social media from fellow Democrats across the country.

Torres’s victory over Diaz is a welcomes outcome for many in the Democratic party. Some feared what Diaz would do to the party when in office considering the clear opposition to Democratic causes, especially considering the hyper-partisan nature of the current Congress.

It was a truly historic night in politics thanks to the people running and the voters.

There were several seats last night that have started to better reflect communities in the district. African-American and Latino candidates won decisively in various districts leading to what could be a more diverse and progressive Congress.

Congratulations to all of the winners during yesterday’s primaries.

READ: AOC Wins Primary Election In New York In Run For A Second Term In Congress

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