Whether seen in a market report, an art history book or a rap verse, the name Jean-Michel Basquiat is legendary. The dreadlocked young artist quickly rose to fame after taking up graffiti in New York City, becoming an incandescent art star before his untimely death in 1988 at only 27 years old.
Twenty five years later, the late artist is experiencing a massive global resurgence. In New York, his blowout Gagosian retrospective saw record attendance and his work is slated to appear later this month at Gagosian's posh Hong Kong gallery for the first time ever. And yet, we often get so tied up in Basquiat the legend we forget he was a real person.
A new three-part video series released by Christie's remembers Basquiat not only for his artistic genius, but also his energy, audacity and growing pains. The series begins with Basquiat's high school friend and the other half of the graffiti duo known as SAMO, Al Diaz. "What we were doing was a response to everything around us...everything we were disillusioned by."
Next we hear from Toxic, Basquiat's friend and contemporary, who paints a picture of the Haitian artist's meteoric rise to fame. Finally we hear from Ben Haggerty, aka Macklemore -- yes, the singer of "Thrift Shop" -- for a surprisingly touching meditation on Basquiat as a source of inspiration in his work as he grapples with his own success. "When he got with Warhol it was like everyone just tore him down." Macklemore continues, "That's such a weird feeling as an artist to make something that's pure, that's from the heart, that is who you are, and have a group of people shit on you."
In a conversation with the curator and critic Henry Geldzahler in Interview, the 23-year-old artist delivers a deceptively simple, thought-provoking line: "The more I paint the more I like everything." The films above honor the mind and legacy of a star that burned too bright, too fast.
Basquiat's collection will show at Gagosian Gallery in Hong Kong from May 25 until August 10, and "Dustheads" (1982) is expected to fetch $25-35 million at Christie's Post-War & Contemporary Art Evening Sale on May 15.
See a preview of the exhibition in the slideshow below and let us know your thoughts.