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Jean-Michel Basquiat

Pop culture and art. Today, those two things go perfectly together; however, not too long ago, it would have been weird to say those words in the same sentence. A perfect example is when rapper and producer Swizz Beatz tells the story of a time when many of his friends thought he was going crazy because he was hanging art in his home. Basquiat literally changed the game when it came to combining the two sub-cultures. Here's his story.

Born in the boroughs of Brooklyn to parents of Puerto Rican and Haitian backgrounds, Basquiat showed his artistic ability very early. With his mother's encouragement, he explored his love for art by touring New York City museum exhibitions. Basquiat faced many personal hardships through his early teen years, eventually leading to him running away from home and dropping out of high school.

The allure of Basquiat's art largely comes from its "unstudied" appearance. However, Basquiat skillfully combined his art with many disparate traditions, styles, and practices from his urban and African-Caribbean heritage. You see the influence his urban upbringing had on his art during his early training years. With inspiration from the New York City-led graffiti movement, Basquiat spray painted buildings across all of Lower Manhattan during the early 70s under the guise of SAMO, an acronym for "Same Old Shit." With its ultra-contemporary and anti-establishment, anti-religion, and anti-politics message, SAMO quickly became the face of the counter-culture movement.

During the mature period of Basquiat's career, you see the influence of his African-Caribbean heritage take hold. With the West African-led works of art, Basquiat made 1982 his golden year. He opened six solo shows across the world. He became the youngest artist to be included in Documenta, the international contemporary art show held in Germany every five years. By the mid-'80s, Basquiat became the leader in Neo-Expressionist and contemporary art.

With his meteoric rise, Basquiat was able to reinvent what American Minimalism and Conceptual art looked like. He magically weaved Pop, Punk, and African culture into his work, establishing a dialogue that has never been seen in art.

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