Exhibitions: Basquiat

From Street to Studio
Basquiat once told an interviewer, "Since I was seventeen, I thought I might be a star." As a teenager, he plunged into the emerging eighties art scene. He met artists and celebrities at the Mudd Club; appeared on Glenn O'Brien's TV Party, a television show about the downtown scene; and starred in a low-budget film, Downtown 81 (New York Beat), based on his own life. All the time, he was also making art: hitting downtown Manhattan buildings with spray-painted aphorisms, selling hand-painted T-shirts and collages on the streets, and making drawings. His big break came in 1980, when critics singled out his work at the Times Square Show, an exhibition showcasing young New York artists. He finally got a studio in 1981, when his first New York dealer, Annina Nosei, invited him to paint in the basement of her gallery.

Until then, he had little money to buy supplies, so he painted on window frames, cabinet doors, even football helmets—whatever he could find. After Basquiat began to make money, the quality of his art materials improved. Even so, throughout his career he often chose to paint on rough, handmade supports and intentionally pursued the awkward look of outsider art.

Next: Becoming a Professional Artist