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Jean-Michel Basquiat working in his studio.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Artist Factory


was born in New York, USA, in 1960 and dies there in 1988.

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Even as a small child, Jean-Michel Basquiat visited the Museum of Modern Art in New York with his mother Matilde. During his visits he enjoyed observing artworks closely and discovering crazy, unexpected things in them.


Try it out for yourself, look closely. Whether at home, looking out of the window, in the city, or even in our museum. 

What makes you stop and wonder? What can’t you just walk past? 

When Jean-Michel Basquiat started painting, he drew and wrote on refrigerators, clothing, furniture and doors. He combined in his pictures elements of graffiti, drawing and expressive painting.

Anatomy books, ideas from art history, his own experiences of street life in New York and many other things were a source of inspiration, which Jean-Michel combined and brought to the canvas freely and uninhibitedly.

Ponder this

What is the effect of graffiti when it appears as a gesture on canvases and not only on the facades of the city? 

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Talk about it

Although Jean-Michel Basquiat was very successful, he was often treated badly due to the color of his skin. He lived in two worlds. He was loved and celebrated by his artist friends, but on the streets of New York he was confronted constantly with racist comments. 

As a teenager, Jean-Michel Basquiat spent a lot of time on the streets and sprayed graffiti on the walls of buildings. That was actually forbidden, but it allowed him to become visible in the city and express himself publicly.

With his friend Al Diaz he became famous as a graffiti artist under the tag SAMO©, an abbreviation of “same old shit.” Jean-Michel was referring to the ongoing racism in the United States. Eventually he wrote on the wall “Samo is dead” and outed himself as “Jean-Michel.”

"[...] the first paintings I made were on windows and doors I found on the street."

Jean-Michel Basquiat


Many artists work together, act and react to each other, not only in the street art scene. Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol also worked together for a while.

Jean-Michel Basquiat was a New York artist. He taught himself to be an artist and discovered the artworld on his own—he never attended art school. How did Jean-Michel nevertheless manage to reach the peak of the art scene in only a few years?

Delve deeper

Artwork Factory

Artwork Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled, 1983

Jean-Michel Basquiat combined symbols, words, letters and drawings in his picture. The painting is untitled, but because of the unique mixture of recognizable signs and traces you can read much from it as a viewer. With oil paint and oil pastels, the artist painted restlessly diverse references ranging from European cultural history to African-American counterculture.