Because we are the creators, because we make history all the time, we have to shout out a particular record setting Creator For The Culture. Black painters are often underappreciated and overlooked but Jean-Michael Basquiat shattered the glass ceiling when in May of 2017 his work of art “Untitled” was sold for an astonishing $110.5 million becoming the priciest work ever sold by an American artist.
The piece was created by Basquiat in 1982 when he was only 21 but hasn’t been displayed for the public in nearly three decades. It was bought by a Japanese billionaire who intends to loan it out to different exhibitors around the world while he builds his own museum in Japan to display it permanently.
The painting portrays an abstract black skull scarred with red rivulets, with angry eyes, and gnashing teeth, all set against a blue wall strewn with graffiti and what looks like random tabulations. Perhaps it’s a calculation of how many Africans died on slave ships or how many survived and lived in slavery in America. Or perhaps how many young black men have been killed by police in recent years. Part of the piece’s genius is that it works in Basquiat’s time, the time and world before, and today.
Basquiat was a New York native, son of a Puerto Rican mother and Haitian-American father, and began his artistic career in street art as part of an infamous graffiti crew in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in the late 70’s. But by the mid 80’s he was exhibiting his edgy, political works in galleries all around the world. Basquiat’s art focused on “suggestive dichotomies”, such as wealth versus poverty, integration versus segregation, and inner versus outer experience. Social commentary was a staple in his work.
He was a man with immense talent but he also had his demons. Basquiat died several years after creating the “Untitled” work, tragically overdosing on heroin in 1988 at age 27. But since his passing he’s assumed mythic stature in the art world, influencing a generation of artists with his visceral, politically inclined works and now he’s in the history books as a record setting Creator For The Culture.
Written by @TalentedMrFord
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