«I start with a picture and then finish it. I don't think
about art when I'm working. I try to think about life.»
Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1987
Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988)
Mainly compiled by Anna Karina Hofbauer, 2019
This chronology is based on various sources, notably the 1992 chronology by Franklin Sirmans.
Jean-Michel Basquiat is born on December 22, 1960, in Brooklyn, New York. His father Gérard Basquiat is Haitian and his mother Matilde Andrades was born to Puerto Rican parents. The Basquiats live in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
His sister Lisane is born.
Basquiat and his mother often visit the Brooklyn Museum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. His mother continually encourages his interest in art and emphasizes its importance. Basquiat attends kindergarten at a Head Start Project school.
His sister Jeanine is born. Basquiat attends St Ann’s, a private Catholic school in Brooklyn.
Basquiat makes cartoonlike drawings inspired by Alfred Hitchcock films, cars, comic books, and the Alfred E. Neuman character from Mad magazine. In May, he is hit by a car while playing ball in the street; Basquiat breaks an arm, suffers various internal injuries, and has to have his spleen removed. Basquiat stays at King’s County Hospital, Brooklyn, for a month. During this sojourn, his mother gives him a copy of Gray’s Anatomy, which makes an everlasting impression on him and influences his later work with anatomical drawings and prints. Gérard and Matilde Basquiat separate; Basquiat and his sisters live with their father.
Following a promotion, Gérard Basquiat and his children move to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Basquiat attends an Episcopalian school.
The Basquiat family returns to live in their brownstone in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, and Jean-Michel Basquiat continues his studies at Edward R. Murrow High School. A few weeks later, he relocates to City-As-School High School, where the focus is on experiential learning through practical knowledge. At City-As-School he meets Al Diaz, a graffiti artist; he develops the fictional character called SAMO© and they collaborate under this pseudonym.
In June, only one year away from graduation, Basquiat leaves high school, and his father’s home for good. He stays with friends, and frequently at the Canal Street loft of British artist Stan Peskett. He is introduced to Fred Brathwaite, aka Fab 5 Freddy, and Danny Rosen.
Basquiat and Diaz end their collaboration as SAMO©, and “SAMO© is dead” appears spray- painted on walls in SoHo. Basquiat begins to sell hand-painted postcards and T-shirts, sometimes in collaboration with Jennifer Stein (later Vonholstein) and John Sex, in order to earn money. In May, Basquiat joins with Shannon Dawson, Vincent Gallo, and Michael Holman to form the band, Channel 9, later renamed Gray. Basquiat plays clarinet and synthesizers.
In the fall, while strolling around the School of Visual Arts, Basquiat meets Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf. Basquiat and Haring become close friends.
In June, Basquiat shows his work publicly for the first time, in the Times Square Show, a group exhibition held in a vacant building in Times Square. Glenn O’Brien selects Basquiat to play the lead role in his New York Beat movie (finally released in 2000 as Downtown 81) on a struggling artist in the downtown scene. The film is loosely based on Basquiat and also features other main characters of the scene like Debbie Harry or Fab 5 Freddy.
From February to April, Basquiat is part of the New York/New Wave exhibition organized by Diego Cortez, at PS1 in Long Island City. In April, Basquiat as SAMO© is shown in the group exhibition Beyond Words: Graffiti Based-Rooted-Inspired Works organized by Fab 5 Freddy and Futura 2000 at Mudd Club, New York. In May, Basquiat travels to Europe for the first time for the show Paintings by SAMO at Galleria Emilio Mazzoli, Modena, Italy. The works are still shown under the name SAMO©. While in Modena, Mazzoli provided the artist with painting material to make more works to the ones brought from New York. In September, Annina Nosei invites Basquiat to participate in the group show Public Address at her gallery in New York in November. The entire rear gallery is reserved for Basquiat’s work. Following the exhibition, Annina Nosei becomes Basquiat’s dealer and knowing that at the time he has no studio space, she invites him to use the basement of her gallery as his studio. In December, the first extensive article on Basquiat, «The Radiant Child» by Rene Ricard, is published in Artforum.
In January, he moves to 151 Crosby Street in SoHo together with Suzanne Mallouk. In March, Basquiat has his first one-man show in the US, at the Annina Nosei Gallery, New York, showing among others Arroz con Pollo (1981), Crowns (Peso Neto) (1981), and Per Capita (1981). He participates in the group exhibition Transavanguardia: Italia/America curated by Achille Bonito Oliva at the Galleria Civica del Comune, Modena. In April, his second one-man show is held at the Larry Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles, showing among others Six Crimee (1982), Untitled (LA Painting) (1982), and Untitled (Yellow Tar and Feathers) (1982).
Basquiat returns to Modena for a planned second exhibition at Emilio Mazzoli’s gallery. After his arrival, he is taken to an industrial space rented by Mazzoli, where he is to produce works for the exhibition. Basquiat feels under pressure and decides to cancel the exhibition after the completion of eight works, each about 2 by 4 meters (6 ½ x 13 feet). Mazzoli pays Basquiat anyway and Nosei takes eight of the nine works, which were for the planned exhibition, to her space in Rome where BB buys four of them.
Basquiat decides to leave the Annina Nosei Gallery. Thereafter, Bruno Bischofberger who has not met Basquiat personally before, becomes his worldwide exclusive art dealer, an agreement that lasts until the artist’s untimely death. Basquiat asks Bischofberger to find a partner gallery for shows in New York. Basquiat’s first choice is Leo Castelli, who declines, and his second choice is Mary Boone, however her decision to agree takes her more than a year. In June, he is the youngest of the 176 artists in Documenta 7 in Kassel, showing Acque Pericolose (Poison Oasis) (1981) and Arroz con Pollo (1981). In September, Basquiat has his first of six one-man exhibitions during his lifetime at Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich, showing new works among others Profit I (1982), Man from Naples (1982), Crown Hotel (1982), and Four Big (1982). On October 5, Bischofberger brings Basquiat to Andy Warhol to formally introduce the two artists and to let him pose to be photographed by Warhol for a portrait painting. With a photo of both artists, shot by Bischofberger, Basquiat instantly leaves Warhol’s studio to paint Dos Cabezas (1982), a portrait of both artists together, and lets his assistant bring it back after an hour and a half. In November, the artist has a show at the Fun Gallery, New York, with around 30 works such as Cabeza (1982), Charles the First (1982), and Jawbone of an Ass (1982). Most of these are the pieces kept by the artist for himself.
In January, Basquiat shows a work at the group show Champions at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York. In February, Annina Nosei Gallery, New York, organizes a one-man show with paintings from her stock executed before May 1982. In March, he has a one-man show at Larry Gagosian Gallery in Los Angeles with works bought from Annina Nosei and lent from Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, among others Jack Johnson (1982), Horn Players (1983), and Eyes and Eggs (1983). Also in March, he participates in the Biennial exhibition of the Whitney Museum of American Art, where he is the youngest artist included, showing Dutch Settlers (1982) and Untitled (Head in Profile) (1981). Through his new girlfriend Paige Powell, an editor at Interview Magazine, and through Bischofberger, Basquiat develops a close relationship with Andy Warhol. In April, a small group of works is shown at Powell’s apartment. In August, he moves into a new loft at 57 Great Jones Street, rented from Andy Warhol and guaranteed by Bruno Bischofberger. In October, the next one-man show at Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich, takes place, showing among others the paintings Hardware Store (1983), Maurice (1983), Toussaint l’Overture Versus Savonarola (1983), and Florence (1983). In October, Basquiat is included in the exhibition Expressive Painting after Picasso at the Galerie Beyeler, Basel. He shows four paintings: The Philistines (1982), Self-Portrait (1982), Stroll (1982), and BAP (1983). The work is presented alongside artists such as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, Jean Dubuffet, Willem de Kooning, and Francis Bacon. Basquiat’s work is on the cover of the exhibition catalogue. In November, Bruno Bischofberger organizes Basquiat’s first exhibition in Japan at the Akira Ikeda Gallery, Tokyo.
During one of his frequent stays at Bruno Bischofberger’s home in St. Moritz, Bischofberger speaks with the artist about collaborative works in art history after Basquiat has made some collaborative drawings with Bischofberger’s four-year-old daughter Cora in the guest book and he has painted a canvas with her. Bischofberger asks Basquiat whether he would be interested in doing collaborative works with Warhol and another artist. Basquiat agrees with great interest.
In January, Basquiat leaves to set up a studio in Hana, Maui, Hawaii. In early spring, Bischofberger asks Warhol and Francesco Clemente, two artists of his gallery, whether they would collaborate on a project of fifteen paintings together with Basquiat and both agree and soon they start working on it. In May, he has his first of two exhibitions at the Mary Boone/Michael Werner Gallery in New York in partnership with Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, showing among others Brown Spots (Portrait of Andy Warhol as a Banana) (1984), Wine of Babylon (1984), and Bird as Buddha (1984). In August, he has his first one-man museum exhibition organized by Mark Francis at the Fruitmarket Gallery in Edinburgh. Basquiat travels together with Bischofberger and his wife Yoyo to Scotland. The exhibition travels to the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London and the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam. In September, Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich, shows all fifteen collaboration works by Basquiat, Clemente, and Warhol and publishes them in a catalogue. Basquiat starts meeting his new girlfriend Jennifer Goode, sister of Christopher and Eric Goode, founders of the New York art-gallery-nightclub Area. He continues doing collaborative works alone with Andy Warhol until mid-1985, which become a large group of over 100 paintings. For this, Basquiat convinces Warhol to set aside his silkscreen technique and go back to painting by hand as he had done in 1961/62, while Basquiat partly uses the silkscreen technique.
In December, he participates in the exhibition 5/5. Figuration Libre, France-USA, organized by Otto Hahn and Hervé Perdriolle at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris.
In January, eleven new works including P-Z (1984), Zydeco (1984), Max Roach (1984), and M (1984) are presented in a one-man exhibition at Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich. Bischofberger organizes an exhibition with some of the collaborations between Basquiat, Clemente, and Warhol at the Akira Ikeda Gallery, Tokyo. On February 10, Basquiat appears on the cover of The New York Times Magazine to accompany Cathleen McGuigan’s article «New Art, New Money. The Marketing of an American Artist». In March, he has his second and last show at Mary Boone/Michael Werner Gallery in New York and shows among others Gold Riot (1984), Grillo (1984), and Wicker (1984). In May, Basquiat is commissioned, through the recommendation of Henry Geldzahler, together with Clemente, Keith Haring, and Kenny Scharf to do art installations for Palladium, a new club on East 14th Street opened by Studio 54 founders Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell. For the opening of the Michael Todd Room at the club, Basquiat paints two gigantic, mural-size paintings. Galerie Bruno Bischofberger publishes the catalogue Jean-Michel Basquiat: Drawings with 32 works made in winter 1982/83, which are later called the Daros Suite. In September, the exhibition Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat: Paintings at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery shows sixteen collaborative works, lent from Bruno Bischofberger. At Shafrazi’s suggestion, the two artists pose together in boxing trunks and gloves for a poster advertising the show. In December, Bruno Bischofberger organizes an exhibition with drawings at Akira Ikeda Gallery, Tokyo. Annina Nosei Gallery, New York, shows Jean-Michel Basquiat: Paintings from 1982, executed before May 1982.
In January, Basquiat returns to Los Angeles for what is to be his last show at the Larry Gagosian Gallery, showing among others Peruvian Maid (1985) and J’s Milagro (1985). In April, the artist has a one-man exhibition at Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zurich, with a selection of 25 of his best drawings from 1984–1986. In August, Jean-Michel Basquiat: Bilder 1984–86 is shown at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg, and in September, a group of collaborations by Basquiat and Warhol is presented at Akira Ikeda Gallery, Tokyo, both organized by Bruno Bischofberger.
In fall, Basquiat travels to Africa for the first and only time accompanied by Jennifer Goode and her brother Eric. They join Yoyo and Bruno Bischofberger, who, at Basquiat’s wish, has organized an exhibition in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire: Jean-Michel Basquiat, at the Centre Culturel Français. Afterwards, Basquiat, Bruno and his wife Yoyo Bischofberger, Jennifer, and Eric fly to Korhogo in the north of the country to meet people from the Senufo tribe. Back in New York, the relationship with Mary Boone worsens. In November, a second museum show opens in Europe, at the Kestner Gesellschaft in Hanover. The show includes more than sixty paintings and drawings. At twenty-five, he is the youngest artist ever to be given an exhibition there. In an interview with Isabelle Graw after Basquiat failed to appear at the opening of the exhibition, he states that Annina Nosey offered him her cellar to work as he did not «have a studio back then» but «the bad situation was that she sold paintings that weren’t finished» and «despite my protests.» Further he mentions that he left Mary Boone because he did not «get on with her.» He explains that he protects himself by «seeing as little as possible of all these art people around me.»
Basquiat and Jennifer Goode break up due to his increasing drug problems. In November, Bischofberger shows ten collaborative works by Basquiat and Warhol.
In January, the exhibition Jean-Michel Basquiat: Oeuvres récentes, is shown at Galerie Daniel Templon, Paris, featuring Gin Soaked Critic (1986), Gri Gri (1986), Mono (1986), and Sacred Monkey (1986). In February, Jean-Michel Basquiat: New Works is shown at Akira Ikeda Gallery, Tokyo, organized by Bischofberger. On February 22, Andy Warhol dies, at the age of fifty-eight, after gallbladder surgery at New York Hospital, Basquiat paints Gravestone (1987) in homage to his friend. In June, a selection of drawings is shown at Galerie Ropac, Salzburg.
In January, he has exhibitions at the Galerie Yvon Lambert, Paris, where works such as Riddle Me This Batman (1987), Light Blue Movers (1987), and She Installs Confidence and Picks his Brain like Salad (1987) are shown, as well as at Galerie Hans Mayer, Düsseldorf. In early spring, Basquiat asks Bischofberger to go to the Warhol Foundation to meet Fred Hughes in order to select Basquiat’s half of the collaboration paintings by Basquiat and Warhol, which Bischofberger has not bought yet. After that he sells his selected half of the works to Bischofberger. The other half of the group of works are sold by the Warhol Foundation to Larry Gagosian who sells most of them in two exhibitions. In April, Basquiat has an exhibition at the Vrej Baghoomian Gallery, New York, showing among others Riding with Death (1988), Eroica I (1988), and
Eroica II (1988).
In May, Basquiat travels to Maui, Hawaii, to attempt to treat his drug addiction. The last exhibition in his lifetime will be at the Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac, Salzburg, Jean-Michel Basquiat: Paintings, Drawings in June/July. In June he returns to New York.
On Friday, August 12, 1988, Jean-Michel Basquiat, after stating that he has stopped taking drugs, dies at 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.» Basquiat’s private funeral is held on August 17, at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel on Madison Avenue and 81st Street, attended only by immediate family and close friends. He is buried at Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn. On November 5, a memorial gathering is held at St. Peter’s Cathedral on Lexington Avenue and 54th Street, attended by some three hundred of Basquiat’s friends and admirers.
Museum exhibitions after 1988
In 1989, the Kestner Gesellschaft, Hanover, dedicates an exhibition to his graphic oeuvre. Four years after his death, in 1992, a first retrospective exhibition of Basquiat’s work is shown at the Musée Cantini, Marseille, and he has his first one-man exhibition at a museum in New York, at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, which later travels to the Menil Collection in Houston, the Des Moines Art Center, Iowa, and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Alabama. From then on, established museums and galleries all over the world organize one-man exhibitions dedicated to the artist, including the following museum shows held to date: 1993, FAE Musée d’Art Contemporain, Lausanne, Musée de la Seita, Paris; 1996, Serpentine Gallery, London, Museum Fridericianum, Kassel (Collaborations) (travels to Museum Villa Stuck, Munich, and Castello di Rivoli, Torino); 1997, Museo Nacional de Bellas
Artes, Buenos Aires (travels to Museu de Arte Moderna, Recife, and Pinacoteca, Sao Paulo); 1999, Civico Museo Revoltella Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Trieste; 2002, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Collaborations); 2004, Museu del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City; 2005, Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York (travels to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston), Museo de Arte Moderna, Lugano; 2006, Duolun Museum of Modern Art, Shanghai (travels to Beijing Imperial City Art Museum, Beijing); 2010, Fondation Beyeler, Basel (travels to Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris); 2011, Arken Museum for Moderne Kunst, Ishøi (Collaborations); 2012, Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn (Collaborations); 2013, Bank Austria Kunstforum, Vienna (Collaborations); 2015, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; 2017, Barbican Centre, London (travels to Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt); 2018, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris.
 Cf. Cathleen McGuigan, «New Art, New Money,» New York Times Magazine, February 10, 1985: Basquiat recalls that «they [Nosei and Mazzoli] set it up for me so I’d have to make eight paintings in a week» and working in the rented space «was like a factory, a sick factory…I hated it.[...] I wanted to be a star, not a gallery mascot.»
 Cf. an excerpt from an interview by Isabelle Graw (IG) with Jean-Michel Basquiat (JMB) published in Wolkenkratzer Art Journal, Frankfurt, no. 1, January-February 1987, translated from German into English: «(IG) You don't make life easy for your dealers. You have recently left Mary Boone... (JMB) I didn't get on with her. (IG) Before that you made paintings in the cellar of Annina Nosei's gallery... (JMB) I didn't have a studio back then. She offered me her cellar to work in. The bad thing about this situation was that she sold paintings that weren't finished. She said someone was interested in the painting and sold it despite my protests. I was young then, l've learnt a lot since then. (IG) Do you feel like a victim? (JMB) Yes.»
 Cf. ibid.