Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art

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9780140236095: Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art

The bestselling biography of the controversial artist, and a vivid account of the fast times in which he lived--and died

Painter Jean-Michel Basquiat was the Jimi Hendrix of the art world: in less 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. Basquiat's brief career spanned the giddy '80s art boom and epitomized its outrageous excess, from its art dealers to its drug dealers, from its clubs to its galleries. A legend in his own lifetime, Basquiat became a fixture in the downtown scene and got involved with many of the period's most celebrated personalities, including Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, and Madonna.

Phoebe Hoban's Basquiat, the first biography of this charismatic figure, charts the trajectory from the artist's troubled childhood to his volatile passage through the art world of white dealers and nouveau-riche collectors. As much the portrait of an era as the portrait of an artist, Basquiat is an incisive expose of the eighties art market that paints a vivid picture of the rise and fall of the graffiti movement, the East Village art scene, the avaricious dealers, and the out-of-control auction houses. Ten years after the artist's death, Basquiat resurrects both the painter and his time.

* A New York Times Notable Book
* Basquiat appeared on the Los Angeles Times and Voice Literary Supplement bestseller lists

"Compulsively readable. . . there is enormous value in it, especially in Hoban's depiction of the glitzy 1980s art world, which is sharply etched and deadly accurate." --Patricia Bosworth, The New York Times Book Review

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Review:

This minutely reported book is as much a portrait of the frenzied, prodigal New York art world of the 1980s as it is a biography of Jean-Michel Basquiat, who died of a drug overdose at age 27 in 1988. Basquiat, one of very few African American artists to acquire an international reputation, left a thick web of dealers, collectors, friends, lovers, paintings, drawings, and used syringes behind him. Author Phoebe Hoban seems to have unblinkingly interviewed or examined them all. While she duly registers Basquiat's sad childhood, with his unstable Puerto Rican mother and punishing Haitian father, she doesn't make much of the deeper veins of sorrow and self-destruction that may have motivated the artist and informed his art. Rather, she allows his celebrity, which whisked him from street urchin to art star, to be the central trajectory of this story. The Warhol protégé would probably approve, as he was the primary obliterator of his own psychological depths, throwing away his short, phenomenally productive life in the edgy club and drug scene of downtown Manhattan. The miracle is that Basquiat was so good, and so serious, an artist, surrounded as he was by hype and cash. Hoban's book is a fluid, intricate, authoritative dissection of a time, a place, and--almost--a person. --Peggy Moorman

About the Author:

Phoebe Hoban has written about culture and the arts for Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ, Harper's Bazaar, and the New York Times. She has written regularly for both New York magazine and the New York Times. She lives in New York City.

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