Untitled, Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1982. © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat

A poet, musician, and graffiti prodigy, Jean-Michel Basquiat had honed his signature painting style of obsessive scribbling, elusive symbols, and mask-and-skull imagery by the time he was 20.

“I don’t think about art while I work,” he once said. “I think about life.”

Basquiat drew his subjects from his own Caribbean heritage – his father was Haitian and his mother of Puerto Rican descent – and a convergence of African-American, African, and Aztec cultural histories with classical themes and contemporary heroes like athletes and musicians.

Often associated with Neo-Expressionism, the trailblazer and maverick received huge acclaim in only a few short years, showing alongside such artists as Julian Schnabel, David Salle, and Francesco Clemente. In 1983, he met Andy Warhol, who would come to be a mentor and idol. The two collaborated on a series of paintings before Warhol’s death in 1987, followed by Basquiat’s own untimely passing a year later.

An eccentric in more ways than one and famously fond of painting in expensive designer suits, it seems only fitting for his work to be showcased in a flagship event at the glittering Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris.

Organised chronologically, the retrospective spans Basquiat’s brief career until his death at the age of 27, focusing on 120 defining works. Unmissable.

Until January 14, 2019. www.fondationlouisvuitton.fr

From France Today magazine

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