Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988), an American painter of Afro-Caribbean descent and exponent of neo-expressionism, is one of the most influential black artists of the 20th century. His work, which transcends the canvas, reflects the contrasts and effervescence of New York in 70s and 80s, in addition to the complex experience of being black in this context.
The young prodigy, who died of an overdose at the age of 27, is part of a select group of artists whose works have sold for more than US$100 million. In 2017, an untitled Basquiat painting depicting a vibrant black head was auctioned for $110.5 million — putting him on par with the likes of Francis Bacon, Jackson Pollock and Pablo Picasso.
In addition to the visual arts, Basquiat established a very particular connection with the fashion. Its striking presence on the streets of Manhattan and the bohemian lifestyle intertwined with the aesthetic possibilities of fashion that were emerging at the time. Below, you can see four points of this relationship, the effects of which still reverberate today in the streets and shop windows around the world.
1. Fashion as personal expression
Basquiat used fashion as a means of expressing authenticity and creativity. His image, like his work, presented contrasts. He combined designer pieces with thrift store finds, used layering, incorporating hats, jackets, bold prints, oversized pieces and ties. Furthermore, he sported unusual cuts and hairstyles in his curly hair, defying with an attitude cool traditional fashion norms.
Luxury label lover
In 1987, Basquiat was at the height of his fame. Despite his shyness, he had already landed an iconic cover in New York Magazine, organized a prestigious exhibition at the Whitney Museum and established a successful photographic collaboration with his friend Andy Warhol. That same year, he also made a foray into the Parisian fashion scene by participating in the Japanese brand’s spring/summer show Comme des Garçonsone of his favorites, alongside Armani It is Issey Miyake.
Legacy in the men’s wardrobe
Using unique combinations of textures, colors and models, Basquiat left his mark on contemporary men’s fashion. Her influence is evident, for example, in looks that combine a t-shirt and blazer or even sneakers with tailored pieces. The artist’s avant-garde look helped pave the way for streetwear fashion present in large urban centers.
Continuous inspiration in the market
While Basquiat’s style remains a source of reinterpretation in street fashion, his art continues to drive sales for both national and international brands. In the last years, Chat, Off white, Reebok, Reservation, Supreme It is Uniqloamong others, licensed works by the artist in order to print a variety of items, consolidating his influence in the world of fashion.