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Jean-Michel Basquiat, born on December 22, 1960, and passing away prematurely on August 12, 1988, was an influential American artist who became prominent in the 1980s as a leading figure in the Neo-expressionism movement.

Emerging first as a graffiti artist in the late 1970s under the moniker SAMO with Al Diaz, Basquiat left his mark across Manhattan's Lower East Side, a vibrant area where rap, punk, and street art merged into the nascent hip-hop culture. By the early 1980s, his work transitioned from street walls to the interiors of galleries and museums worldwide. Remarkably, by the age of 21, Basquiat was the youngest artist to participate in Documenta in Kassel, Germany, and at 22, he was among the youngest featured at the Whitney Biennial in New York. The Whitney Museum of American Art honoured him with a retrospective in 1992.

Basquiat's oeuvre is known for exploring themes such as the contrast between wealth and poverty, integration and segregation, and the external versus the internal experience. His work seamlessly blended poetry, drawing, and painting, combining text with imagery, abstraction with figuration, and historical insights with contemporary critique. Through his art, Basquiat offered a profound commentary on social issues, reflecting on his own experiences within the African American community, critiquing power structures, and addressing racism. His art was a vehicle for political expression, directly challenging colonialism and advocating for social justice.

After his untimely death at the age of 27, Basquiat's legacy has only grown, with his artworks appreciating in value. In 2017, his piece "Untitled" (1982), which features a black skull set against a backdrop of vibrant colours, was sold for an astonishing $110.5 million, setting a record and underscoring his lasting impact on the art world.