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. 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 white art world of dealers and nouveau-riche collectors, chronicling the meteoric success and overnight burnout that made him an instant art-world myth.
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, and the out-of-control auction houses. Ten years after the artist's death, Basquiat resurrects both the painter and his time.
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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 MoormanAbout 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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