December 22, Jean-Michel Basquiat born at Brooklyn Hospital,New York. His father, Gerard Basquiat, born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; his mother, Matilde Andradas, born in Brooklyn of Puerto Rican parents. The Basquiats live in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
At an early age, Basquiat shows an affinity for drawing, often using paper his father brings home from the accounting firm where he works to make drawings inspired by television cartoons. His mother has a strong interest in fashion design and sketching, and she frequently draws with Basquiat.
In May, while playing ball in the street, Basquiat is hit by an automobile. He breaks an arm, suffers various internal injuries, and has to have his spleen removed. He is hospitalized at King's County Hospital for one month. While recovering, he receives a copy of Gray’s Anatomy from his mother. The book makes a lasting impression; its influence is found in Basquiat's later work with anatomical drawings and prints and in the name of the band he co-founded in 1979, Gray.
Through the City-as-School, Basquiat becomes involved with an Upper West Side drama group called Family Life Theater. During this time, he creates a fictional character named SAMO (Same Old Shit), who makes a living selling a fake religion. Basquiat and Diaz, among the most popular students at City-as-School, both very creative and with a knack for getting into a lot of trouble, begin collaborating on the SAMO project as "a way of letting off steam."
They begin spray-painting aphorisms on the D train of the IND line and around lower Manhattan. The writings consist of witty philosophical poems: SAMO as an end to mindwash religion nowhere politics, and bogus philosophy," "SAMO saves idiots, Plush safe he think; SAMO.
In June, Basquiat leaves home for good. Gerard Basquiat, with some trepidation, gives his son money with the understanding that he will try his best to succeed.
Basquiat's fascination with stardom and "burning out" is a recurring subject in his life. Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, two people whose work and artistic achievement Basquiat admires, had both died of drug overdoses at the age of twenty- seven in 1970. His admiration for musicians, singers, and boxers like Joplin, Hendrix, Charlie Parker, Billie Holiday, Sugar Ray Robinson, and Joe Louis is shown later in various paintings.
Basquiat begins to sell hand-painted postcards and T-shirts to make a little money. He approaches Andy Warhol and Henry Geldzahler inside the SoHo restaurant WPA; he sells a postcard to Warhol but Geldzahler dismisses him as "too young.13
Basquiat and Adler move into a small apartment at 527 East 12th Street, his first fixed address. During this time, he becomes a regular among a crowd of filmmakers, musicians, and artists that hang out at the "new" downtown spots: the Mudd Club, Club 57, CBGB's, Hurrah's, and Tier 3. Along with Patti Astor, co-founder of the Fun Gallery, David Byrne, Blondie, Madonna, Tina Lhotsky, the B-52s, John Lurie, Diego Cortez, Edit DeAk, Ann Magnuson, and John Sex, Basquiat regularly makes the scene at the Mudd Club.
Basquiat concentrates on painting T-shirts and making postcards, drawings, and collages. They display a combination of graffiti art and Abstract Expressionism, and focus on baseball players, the Kennedy assassination, and consumer items such as Pez candy. Basquiat collaborates on many of these with John Sex and Jennifer Stein, and sells the work in Washington Square Park, around SoHo, and in front of The Museum of Modern Art.
In May, Basquiat, along with Michael Holman, Shannon Dawson, and Vincent Gallo form the band Channel 9, later renamed Test Pattern, then Gray. They are subsequently joined by Wayne Clifford and Nick Taylor. Basquiat plays clarinet and synthesizers for the group, which performs a distinct blend of jazz, punk, and synth-pop, often referred to as "noise music.
I am alone, and feel the charm of existence in this spot, which was created for the bliss of souls like mine.
In June, Basquiat's art is publicly exhibited for the first time in the "Times Square Show," a group exhibition held in a vacant building at 41st Street and Seventh Avenue in the Times Square area of New York. The exhibition is organized by Colab (Collaborative Projects Incorporated), an artist-run group based on the Lower East Side, and Fashion Moda, a graffiti-based alternative gallery space in the South Bronx. Like members of the two organizing groups, the conjunction of artists in the show represents two very distinct subcultures: the downtown avant-garde consisting of new wave and neo-pop, and the uptown avant-garde of rap and graffiti. Some of the other artists in the show are: John Ahearn, Jane Dickson, Mike Glier, Mimi Gross, David Hammons, Jenny Holzer, Joe Lewis, Candace Hill-Montgomery, Tom Otterness, Lee Quinones, Kenny Scharf, Kiki Smith, and Robin Winters.
The "Times Square Show" is enthusiastically received by the art world, an early step in legitimizing the artists of the East Village club scene. Basquiat creates a large SAMO installation on a single wall of the space and is one of a few artists discussed in the review for Art in America
In February, Basquiat is included in "New York/New Wave," an exhibition organized by Diego Cortez for the large gallery space at P.S. 1, Institute for Art and Urban Resources, in Long Island City. The show includes more than twenty artists, among them Edie Baskin, Keith Haring, Robert Mapplethorpe, Kenny Scharf, Andy Warhol, and the graffiti artists Ali, Crash, Dondi, Fab 5 Freddy (Braithwaite), Haze, Lady Pink, Seen, and Zephyr. Basquiat has high visibility in the show, with a wall on which he installs more than twenty drawings and paintings. These works attract the attention of dealers Emilio Mazzoli, Bruno Bischofberger, and Annina Nosei. The day after the opening of the show, Basquiat returns home to Brooklyn around six in the morning and proclaims, "Papa I've made it!"
In May, Basquiat travels to Europe for the first time, for his first one-artist exhibition, at the Galleria d'Arte Emilio Mazzoli in Modena, Italy. The work is shown under the name SAMO.
The first extensive article on Basquiat, "The Radiant Child," by Rene Ricard, appears in the December 1981 issue of Artforum. The detailed essay examines the emerging New York artists from the Mudd Club shows, the "Times Square Show," and "New York/New Wave." Some of the other artists discussed are John Ahearn, Fred Braithwaite, Francesco Clemente, Dondi, Futura 2000, Keith Haring, Lady Pink, and Judy Rifka.
In June, Basquiat, at age twenty-one, is the youngest of 176 artists invited to participate in the international exhibition "Documenta 7" in Kassel, West Germany. His work is shown with that of such established artists as Joseph Beuys, Anselm Kiefer, A. R. Penck, Gerhard Richter, Cy Twombly, and Andy Warhol, in addition to that of younger artists Francesco Clemente, Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer, Lee Quinones, and David Salle.
Nevertheless, because he is young and because he is black, Basquiat's paintings and drawings encourage the recognition of graffiti art within the art world. By this time, the Lower East Side arts scene has graduated from exhibitions in clubs to small storefront alternative gallery spaces that exhibit hundreds of young artists from the downtown club scene, artists who were rarely accepted by the larger art community of New York.
Also in March, Basquiat is included in the 1983 Biennial Exhibition" at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. The exhibition includes more than forty artists, many being shown for the first time at the Museum, among them Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, David Salle, and Cindy Sherman. Basquiat, at age twenty-two is one of the youngest artists ever to be included in a Whitney Biennial.
On August 15, Basquiat moves into 57 Great Jones Street, a building he leases from its owner, Andy Warhol. Their relationship flowers, though it prompts much discussion of white patronization of black art. Warhol and Basquiat work out together, paint each other's portraits, attend art events, and regularly discuss philosophies of life and art, as well as Basquiat's family experiences. Warhol encourages Basquiat to be more responsible toward his family.
In September, Basquiat's collaborative paintings with Warhol and Clemente are shown at the Galerie Bruno Bischofberger in Zurich. The trio had completed about fifteen paintings and this show demonstrates the degree of celebrity status and popularity that Basquiat has attained at such an early age.
Basquiat's friends become more and more concerned about his excessive drug use. They often find Basquiat in a state of paranoia and uncharacteristically unconcerned with his appearance. Basquiat's paranoia is also fueled by the very real threat of people stealing work from his apartment.
In September, sixteen collaborative paintings by Basquiat and Warhol are shown at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery. At Shafrazi's suggestion the two artists pose together in boxing trunks and gloves for a poster advertising the show. Unfavorable reviews cause tension in and, ultimately, weaken the Warhol-Basquiat friendship.
In November, a large exhibition of more than sixty paintings and drawings opens at the Kestner-Gesellschaft in Hannover. Organized by Carl Haenlein, this is Basquiat's second survey exhibition in a European museum; at twenty-five he is the youngest artist ever given an exhibition there.
On February 22, Andy Warhol dies. Though their friendship had suffered greatly in the last year, Basquiat appears to be devastated by this loss. Basquiat paints Gravestone, a memorial to Andy Warhol.
On Friday, August 12, Jean-Michel Basquiat dies in his Great Jones Street loft at age twenty-seven. The autopsy report from the office of the Chief Medical Examiner, Manhattan Mortuary, lists cause of death as "acute mixed drug intoxication (opiates- cocaine)."