Why Basquiat Still Matters


Photo: Brad Branson, 1984

When Jean Michel Basquiat first emerged, it was as though he had put a firework up the art establishment. He had always harboured resentment against the hegemony of it, with the predominance of white middle-class painters in gallery exhibitions.

His art work was of the street. As with his wilfully opaque, spray -canned graffiti slogans, it pulsed with hip -hop and Afrobeat rhythms; anathema to dry, classical old white men who dominated over the galleries.

Little wonder he found kinship in fellow eccentric and outsider Andy Warhol, whose death devastated him and arguably set him on his own path to nihilistic destruction.


Image: Basquiat.

Eclectic art publishers Taschen’s recent book featured a collection of some of his best loved work, which still zings with timeless beauty and fury. In Basquiat’s world, the two were never mutually exclusive. That, and a prescient sense of style and form, is why his work so endures.


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