Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art

Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art

by Phoebe Hoban

Painter Jean-Michel Basquiat was the Jimi Hendrix of the art world: in than a decade he went from being a teenage graffiti writer to an international art star; he was dead of a drug overdose at age twenty-seven.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Art
  • Rating: 3.93
  • Pages: 393
  • Publish Date: October 19th 2004 by Penguin Books
  • Isbn10: 0143035126
  • Isbn13: 9780143035121

What People Think about "Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art"

She began her journalistic career at Newsweek International, writing about new technology. In 1984, she began writing a technology column for New York Magazine. Basquiat began as half the SAMO team that spread graffiti and messages throughout New York City. The amount of source material and research make this book a seemingly accurate portrayal of Basquiats life and his environment.

I bought a lovely, cheap glazed bowl at a college art sale in the 1980s. Talent plus looks equals big money when this guy goes to New York and becomes famous and I have a piece of art I can sell and retire on. It was that kind of ethos, marked by the crass commodification of art -- or more precisely of artists as brand-names -- that drove the New York and European art worlds of the 1980s in which Jean-Michel Basquiat so quickly rose and fell. The book attempts with varying degrees of success to nail down the enigmatic personality of Basquiat, wisely letting various voices speak, and in that crazy quilt of voices one gains convergence as often as divergence.

I should point out right away that you won't learn anything about Basquiat's work reading it, but I didn't truthfully expect to. The book is strictly about the artist's life and times, both of which were a hot mess. The later parts of the book read like every episode of VH1's Behind the Music ever: "Unfortunately, the drugs, booze and out-of-control womanizing had begun to get in the way of the music" or in this case, the art. The book is full of tales of art dealers showing up at Basquiat's studio with duffel bags full of untraceable cash which they traded for paintings which were barely finished. As damning as the portrayal of art dealers is (and it's damning, especially when Hoban comes to Vrej Baghoomian, a bottom-feeder who swooped in to exploit what was left of the artist when Basquiat already had one foot in the grave), Basquiat himself doesn't exactly come out clean. There are also plenty of behavioral signs that he hated himself, his aspirations, and even his own success -- listening to his headphones throughout a dinner with important collectors who admired his work, painting on a dealer's expensive mattress rather than the canvases provided out of spite, etc. Basquiat said he didn't exploit his ethnic background or the, uh, "racially charged" perception of the black artist as "primitive" or "instinctual." I'm not so sure, but he certainly knew that his dealers viewed him that way and marketed him that way.

Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art is an oft repetitive and scattered account of the life of the 80s Neo-Expressionist painter, Jean-Michel Basquiat. Sweeping from Jean-Michels middle-class upbringing in Brooklyn, NY to the height of 80s decadence in Manhattan, this book is as much a portrait of the excess of the times as it is of Basquiat himself. During the heyday of clubs such as CBGBs and the Mudd Club, Basquiat toiled alongside other fellows of the arts such as Julian Schnabel, Keith Haring, Robert Mapplethorpe, Robert Longo, Francesco Clemente, David Salle, Sandro Chia, oh and of course lets not forget Andy Warhol! After leaving home at 15 years old, Basquiat put his artistic talents to use by scrawling cryptic graffiti all over Manhattan under that same pseudonym. By the time he started painting, Michel had already become a steady presence in the underground art/rock scene of Manhattan. Basquiats art also reflected his passion for language, knowledge, pop culture, music and other things he obsessed over such as being black and his own death. The importance of his work, in terms of financial worth and historical relevance, has increased dramatically in the decades since his death and within the eighties generation of painters, Basquiat alone has consistently set records for the prices paid for his paintings sold at auction.

There is little here about his work itself, and in order to understand why Basquiat is so important you'll need a collection of his pictures. Hoban has Vrej Baghoomian coming out looking like quite the scumbag, and she describes the case of the several Basquiat forgeries. The final chapter finally focuses on Basquiat's art itself, its themes and the painter's techniques.

Includes a lot of interview quotes which provide first hand accounts that I haven't read before.

Even after following his legacy and art for years now (through reading interviews, excerpts from articles, etc that detail the ups and downs of his life), many of the details of his drug escapades and how he treated people still surprised me.

He was a very unique young man for his age and didnt care about the negative opinion from people or credits which what made him to be great, They was starting to call Basquiat the Jimmy Hendrix of art world because of his retro affect. I like this because it describes a young man from Brooklyn that is an outstanding artist that will change the art world in Brooklyn, but just when you think things is going well its always something that ruins it. Young Basquiat will change the art world after taking this bad route to interfere with his talent, dreams, hard-work and career.