December 22nd in African American History – Jean-Michael Basquiat

December 22, 1960 Jean-Michael Basquiat, the first painter of African descent to become an international art star, was born in Brooklyn, New York.

By the age of eleven, Basquiat was fluent in French and Spanish. He dropped out of high school and started as a graffiti artist. By 1982, he had become part of the neo-expressionist movement and was showing his work regularly. In 1985, he appeared on the cover of The New York Times Magazine in a feature entitled “New Art, New Money: The Marketing of an American Artist.”

Examples of Basquiat’s representation of his heritage in his works include “Irony of Negro Policeman” (1981) and “Untitled (History of the Black People).” Basquiat died August 12, 1988 and several major museum retrospective exhibitions of his work have been held since his death, including the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Brooklyn Museum.

In 2007, an untitled work of his from 1981 sold for $14.6 million. In 1996, a film biography titled “Basquiat” was released and in 2009 a documentary film, “Jean-Michael Basquiat: The Radiant Child,” was released.

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