As a boy, Basquiat wanted to be a cartoonist. He established his reputation as a graffiti artist in the late 1970s, and his tag (SAMO) and subversive messages caught the attention of art-world stars of the era: Andy Warhol and Keith Haring thrust Basquiat onto a global stage. Through his friendship with Warhol and Haring, he turned to the studio, creating paintings that reflect the energy of early 1980s hip-hop, as well as other cultural influences —ranging from Picasso to voodoo to Malcolm X.
His work features layers of drawing, scratching, painting, collage, photocoping, and found objects—compositions which display a mastery of materials and techniques from acrylic and screen-printing to colored markers and spray paint.
The first retrospective of Basquiat’s work was held at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1993. In 2005, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles held another, and in 2017, the Barbican Centre in London exhibited the most recent survey of his work: “Basquiat: Boom for Real.” His work was most recently on view at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris.