Jean Michel Basquiat - a summery of his life

Essay by priorityCollege, Undergraduate March 2004

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Jean Michel Basquiat

Jean Michel Basquiat was born on December 22 1960 in Brooklyn, New York. At an early age his mother, Matilde, introduced him to art by taking him to museums and theatres, and he learned to draw from the books she brought him, like Gray's Anatomy. For a brief time he attended school Puerto Rico, where he had a first attempt at life drawing in year 9 and was the only student to fail. Basquiat soon left and fell into CAS ("City as school"). CAS was a program designed for kids who struggled at traditional schools.

Feeling cramped and like he was getting nowhere he left home and lived on the streets for some time. Sleeping in cardboard boxes and on park benches in Washington square. "I did whatever it took. I stole from grocery stores. I hustled ... guys sucking me off for twenty bucks."

While in the CAS program, Basquiat came up with the idea that led to his first taste of fame.

On night in 1978, after smoking some pot with friend Al Diaz in the CAS student lounge, Jean Michel came up with the idea of SAMO (SAM Old shit). They drew cartoons and wrote essays about SAMO for the CAS student paper, but the most important aspect of the SAMO project was the graffiti. Basquiat and Diaz sprayed phases like "SAMO saves idiots" and "Plush safe he think" and signed them with the name SAMO, all over lower Manhattan. The ploy worked so well that a $100 reward was posted for the capture of SAMO. When Basquiat and Diaz had a falling out, Basquiat finalised the end of their partnership by writing "SAMO is dead".

Basquiat showed his work for the first time in 1980 at the Times Square Show. There he made...