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12 Things You Didn't Know about Jean-Michel Basquiat

November 3, 2016

Perez Art Museum Miami's exhibit 'Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks' offers a fresh look into the mind of the artistic genius. Here are some details you may not have known.


Photo by Tseng Kwong Chi Copyright 1987 Muna Tseng Dance Projects, Inc.


By Jordan Levin | jlevin@miamiherald.com9/21/2016


The show of Jean-Michel Basquiat's notes, poems, and sketches at Perez Art Museum Miami, "Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks," reveals a personal side of the artist who's become a popular icon as well as one of the most highly regarded and highest-priced artists in the world. Here are 12 things you probably didn't know about Basquiat, who died of a heroin overdose in 1988, at the age of 27.


A still from “A Conversation with Basquiat” 2006 (Tamra Davis) Photo: Jonathan Dorado, Brooklyn Museum Courtesy of the artist. By permission of the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, all rights reserved.


1. Basquiat's mother was Puerto Rican; and his father was a Haitian immigrant who fled the regime of dictator Papa Doc Duvalier after his parents were jailed and his brother killed. Basquiat spoke Spanish and Creole as well as English.


2. He ran away from his Brooklyn home when he was a teenager, and was homeless for a while.


3. When he was six his spleen was removed after he was hit by a car; which would hurt his health later on.


Jean-Michel Basquiat on the set of “Downtown 81,” 1980-81. 35mm slide. Edo Bertoglio Copywright New York Beat Films, LLC. Courtesy Maripol. By permission of the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, all rights reserved


4. As graffiti painters began attracting the art world's attention in the late '70s, Basquiat became known for writing cryptic poems on the walls of downtown New York's Soho art district, using the name "SAMO," which stood for "Same Old S---"


Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled Notebook Page, circa 1987. Wax crayon on ruled notebook paper. Photo: Sarah DeSantis, Brooklyn Museum Collection of Larry Warsh. Copyright Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, all rights reserved.


5. The notebooks in the PAMM show were found by Michael Holman and Nicholas Taylor, bandmates with Basquia