Famous Quotes by Jean-Michel Basquiat

At that point, [an artist] was somebody who could draw, but my ideas have changed since then. Now I see an artist as something a lot broader than that.

[Basquiat learnt about art simply] by looking.

Believe it or not, I can actually draw.

Charles Saatchi has never liked my work at all.

For a while, I was drawing on good paper, but now I've gone back to the bad stuff. I put matte medium on it. If you put matte medium on it, it seals up, so it doesn't really matter.

Graffiti has a lot of rules in it as to what you can do and what you can’t do, and I think it's hard to make art under those conditions.

[Gray] was a noise band. I played a guitar with a file, and a synthesiser. I was inspired by John Cage at the time – music that isn't really music. We were trying to be incomplete, abrasive, oddly beautiful.

I am not a black artist, I am an artist.

I don't listen to what art critics say. I don't know anybody who needs a critic to find out what art is.

I don't think about art when I'm working. I try to think about life.

I enjoy that they think I'm a bad boy. I think it's great.

I had very few friends. There was nobody I could trust. I left home when I was fifteen. I lived in Washington Square Park.

I had some money, I made the best paintings ever. I was completely reclusive, worked a lot, took a lot of drugs. I was awful to people.

I have a painting where somebody's holding a chicken, and underneath the chicken is somebody's head.

I have done only two portraits: one of the artist Francesco Clemente and another of Andy Warhol.

If I'm away from painting for a week, I get bored.

If you wanna talk about influence, man, then you’ve got to realise that influence is not influence. It's simply someone's idea going through my new mind.

I like kids' work more than work by real artists any day.

I like to have information rather than just have a brushstroke. Just to have these words to put in these feelings underneath.

I'm not a real person. I'm a legend.

I played a guitar with a file, and a synthesizer.

I think there's a lot of people that are neglected in art.

I thought I was going to be a bum the rest of my life.

I wanted to be a cartoonist when I was young.

I wanted to be a star, not a gallery mascot.

I wanted to build up a name for myself.

I want to make paintings that look as if they were made by a child.

I was a cute kid.

I was a really lousy artist as a kid. Too abstract expressionist; or I'd draw a big ram's head, really messy. I'd never win painting contests. I remember losing to a guy who did a perfect Spiderman.

I was trying to communicate an idea; I was trying to paint a very urban landscape. I was trying to make paintings different from the paintings that I saw a lot of at the time, which were mostly minimal, and they were highbrow and alienating, and I wanted to make very direct paintings that most people would feel the emotion behind when they saw them.

Medicine men live in caves.

My basic influence had probably been Peter Max.

My favorite Twombly is 'Apollo and the Artist,' with the big 'Apollo' written across it.

Occasionally, when I get mad at a woman, I'll do some great, awful painting about her.

Since I was seventeen I thought I might be a star. I'd think about all my heroes, Charlie Parker, Jimi Hendrix... I had a romantic feeling about how these people became famous.

Some days I can't get an idea, and I think, 'Man, I'm just washed up,' but it's just a mood.

The black person is the protagonist in most of my paintings. I realized that I didn't see many paintings with black people in them.

The country makes me more paranoid, you know? I think the crazy people out there are little crazier.

The more I paint the more I like everything.

There are about 30 words around you all the time, like 'thread' or 'exit.'

I think there are a lot of people who are neglected in art, I don't know if it's who made the paintings or what, but I know black people are never really portrayed realistically, or they're not, they're not even portrayed in modern art at all. Just for a change you know.

Quotes about Jean-Michel Basquiat by Fellow Artists, Art Academics & Celebrities

The graffiti artist turned painter became the star of the 1980s New York art scene. Since his death aged 27, his reputation has soared.

The Guardian

Many of Basquiat’s paintings are in some way autobiographical and Untitled, 1981 is largely considered a form of self-portraiture. The skull here exists somewhere between life and death. The eyes are listless, the face is sunken in, and the head looks lobotomized and subdued. Yet, there are wild colors and spirited marks that suggest a surfeit of internal activity. Developing his own personal iconography, in this early work, Basquiat both alludes to modernist appropriation of African masks and employs the mask as a means of exploring identity.

The Broad

As his popularity soared, so did Basquiat's personal problems. By the mid-1980s, friends became increasingly concerned by his excessive drug use. He became paranoid and isolated himself from the world around him for long stretches. Desperate to kick a heroin addiction, he left New York for Hawaii in 1988, returning a few months later and claiming to be sober.


His work refers back to the eruption of modernity, that of the expressionists, but his filiations are numerous. The acuteness of his gaze, his visits to museums, and the reading of a number of books gave him a real sense of culture. Yet his gaze was directed: the absence of black artists being painfully evident, the artist imposed the need to depict African American culture and revolts in equal measure in his work. Basquiat’s death in 1988 interrupted a very prolific body of work, carried out in under a decade, with over one thousand paintings and even more drawings.

Fondation Louis Vuitton