Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art

Basquiat: A Quick Killing in ArtI was completely blown away by this book The details and the references that Hoban compiled over the years is nothing short of astounding, so props to her for being able to reach so many people.I will say this if this is your first time hearing about Basquiat and you want to learn , do not read this book first Even after following his legacy and art for years now through reading interviews, excerpts from articles, etc that detail the ups and downs of his life , many of the details of his drug escapades and how he treated people still surprised me I would say learn about his art first, and the legacy that he wanted to leave behind Then, once you know the basics, return to this book to gain deeper insight into his psyche and the tumultuous, fast paces whirlwind of the art world in NYC in the 80s.SAMO is not dead. Phoebe Hoban s BASQUIAT A Quick Killing in Art is one of the few biographies of the painter whose brief career 1980 1988 coincided with the disgusting obsession with profit of the Eighties art world There is little here about his work itself, and in order to understand why Basquiat is so important you ll need a collection of his pictures.The two big themes of the book are drugs and lots of sex with myriad women and men I had the impression like many, I assume that Basquiat s sinking into drug addiction happened only after his corrupting fame, but Hoban reveals that he had been seriously abusing drugs since the age of fifteen Basquiat s making an income by selling his body is also exhaustively treated, as are his relationships with Klaus Nomi, Rene Richards, Suzzane Mallouk, and others The reader notices that a lot of things are being left out It is obvious, and Hoban herself makes an allusion at one point, that Basquiat was somewhat well read, but Hoban never talks about his intellectual activities or, with the exception of Cy Twombly, his discovery of his artistic predecessors.After recounting Basquiat s death, there are two final chapters The first describes the fights over his estate over the following decade Hoban has Vrej Baghoomian coming out looking like quite the scumbag, and she describes the case of the several Basquiat forgeries The chapter ends with a chilling visit to Basquiat s mother, now left extremely poor and mentally fragile even though she was entitled to fifty percent of all proceeds The final chapter finally focuses on Basquiat s art itself, its themes and the painter s techniques However, it isn t as substantial as other presentations of Basquiat s work.If you love Basquiat s painting and really could care less who the man was, Hoban s biography has little appeal and that is why I have rated it rather low I think that the book would be most attractive to those seeking to understand Basquiat in a historical context along with the 1980s art scene as a whole That the work is very well sourced makes it a useful guide to further research. 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 MythAs 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 Basquiat A Quick Killing in Art is an oft repetitive and scattered account of the life of the 80s Neo Expressionist painter, Jean Michel Basquiat Basquiat was the first contemporary African American artist to become an international star In this book, the author draws from interviews with ex girlfriends, friends and peers of the art world Sweeping from Jean Michel s middle class upbringing in Brooklyn, NY to the height of 80s decadence in Manhattan, this book is as much a portrait of the excess of the times as it is of Basquiat himself During the heyday of clubs such as CBGBs and the Mudd Club, Basquiat toiled alongside other fellows of the arts such as Julian Schnabel, Keith Haring, Robert Mapplethorpe, Robert Longo, Francesco Clemente, David Salle, Sandro Chia, oh and of course let s not forget Andy Warhol If you were around during the heyday of the 80s a lot of these names will be familiar to you.In his school years Basquiat became one of the star illustrators in the school yearbook and newspaper This is where his oft used pseudonym SAMO was born in an essay about a bogus religion After leaving home at 15 years old, Basquiat put his artistic talents to use by scrawling cryptic graffiti all over Manhattan under that same pseudonym Around that same time he collaborated with his friend Michael Holman, who is now an award winning writer, director and producer, creating the industrial band, Gray By the time he started painting, Michel had already become a steady presence in the underground art rock scene of Manhattan In the decade to follow he would not only become a legendary artist, he would become a victim of the times and die of a heroin overdose at 27 years old Although Basquiat is remembered as charismatic, kind, gentle and loving by ex lovers and friends, they all talk frankly of how he was also a very pained and isolated spirit He would unwittingly sabotage his relationships, both personal and professional He had a fear of betrayal and he could not maintain emotional bonds, often driving people away with his behavior He was not tactful, was very selfish and could sometimes be offensive The one word that applies to JeanMichel is excess The one word is If you asked JeanMichel what he wanted, the answer would be He was never happy He was obsessive about everything He wanted , whether it was people, or food, or drugs.On the professional side, he yearned for and eventually got recognition by Andy Warhol, working alongside him at one point, but eventually sabotaged that relationship as well As the new money of the eighties was being rapidly invested in art, art dealers were continually trying to exploit him He was being pressured to produce painting after painting non stop John Michel hated the ever increasing demand on him and couldn t take the unending pressure of being treated like a commodity Some of this can be seen in the art he produced as he layered meaningful messages within each piece It is during this time that his paintings seem to become somewhat repetitive Basquiat s art also reflected his passion for language, knowledge, pop culture, music and other things he obsessed over such as being black and his own death In the end, Basquiat left behind an enduring legacy in the art world The importance of his work, in terms of financial worth and historical relevance, has increased dramatically in the decades since his death and within the eighties generation of painters, Basquiat alone has consistently set records for the prices paid for his paintings sold at auction I was very interested in reading about Basquiat and I should have liked this book Being a child of the 80s, I absolutely loved the music and art of that decade I recognize that it s got to be hard to splice all the info contained in this book into a comprehensive timeline and it definitely shows The book was poorly constructed, jumping back and forth through time and becoming very repetitious In the end, it sounds like Jean Michel just got tired of the same old, same old, and that s exactly how I felt reading about it I want to thank the publisher Open Road Integrated Media for providing me with the ARC through NetGalley for an honest review. basic narrative peppered with ancedotes. This was an extremely informational text It spoke of the madness of the 80 s art scene and how someone creative could be famous and so quickly thrown away If you are looking for a book of Basquiat s obsessiveness with white s and their fascination of him, this is the text for you If you are searching for elements of his blackness or dark and brooding past, which would immediately explain his work, you are looking for a book that is non existent. This is one of those biographies based on recounting rather than reflecting There s almost no discussion of Basquiat s vision or technique The biographer describes what Basquiat did on myriad occasions and quotes members of his circle extensively but the man himself is left a blank There are almost no photographs of his work I read it after watching a number of excellent documentaries and so it was an especially frustrating read The one insight I did get was how troubled his home life was there was less discussion of this in the documentaries Although the lack of empathy and insight here made me second guess some of what the biographer had to say on this score I don t think Hoban really empathized with what it meant to be a child whose mother had mental illness and was forced out of his childhood home , whose father beat him, who for whatever reason was compelled to live on the streets at such an early age fifteen She doesn t seem to have a sense that Basquiat spent a lot of time reading and visiting museums, although I believe that is documented by other observers of his life oeuvre There s some lip service on his experience as a Black man but it s very superficial, and there s practically nothing about his first generation status and Haitian identity She states on multiple occasions Basquiat was exploited and discriminated against as a Black man and gives some specific instances but there s very little depth in her pursuit of this aspect of his life or what the type of bias he faced tells us about the culture at the time I had the sense she did not empathize with him, either as a child or as an exploited genius She doesn t seem that interested in his work or in what drove his astonishing level of productivity At points she quotes Robert Hughes dismissive reviews of Basquiat s work, which I found shockingly off base to quote without commenting on does she agree with Hughes A biographer who catalogues addiction and greedy excess the dealers and collectors, and the upheaval in the 80s art world but shows minimal interest in the subject s vision, character, significance, etc., is not a biographer I can really trust I m on the lookout for other works about Jean Michel Basquiat Most of all I want opportunities to see Basquiat s work in person. Pros A quick, easy somewhat interesting read Includes a lot of interview quotes which provide first hand accounts that I haven t read before.Cons Scanty other research besides the interviews Endnotes are not marked they are only marked by page, which makes referencing difficult A lot of writings on the general condition of the art market in the 1980s, which should already be familiar to most readers Nothing really earth shattering about this book, except the fact that Hoban takes some liberties, specifically with regard to making frequent mentions of his race, as a catalyst for his lifestyle, an inspiration for his work and, the reason for his fame, which is factually incorrect and reputed by most if not all Basquiat scholars. I bought a lovely, cheap glazed bowl at a college art sale in the 1980s The artist was pointed out to me and he was a black haired Adonis This was the 80s, remember, the greed is good era, and I was slightly a yuppie I did the math Talent plus looks equals big money when this guy goes to New York and becomes famous and I have a piece of art I can sell and retire on It was crass, but it was the zeitgeist.It didn t happen The art bubble burst in the late 80s The guy never became famous And now I have a lovely glazed bowl that looks as nice sitting on the furniture as it did than 20 years ago.It was that kind of ethos, marked by the crass commodification of art or precisely of artists as brand names that drove the New York and European art worlds of the 1980s in which Jean Michel Basquiat so quickly rose and fell Andy Warhol was Basquiat s ultimate hero and eventually, friend, as much as anyone could said to have been a friend of Warhol s as much or because of his fame as for his impact on art Ironically, it was Warhol who died before Basquiat, despite the latter s off the charts drug intake.This is a very good biography of Basquiat the whos, whats and wheres are covered with great comprehensiveness It is even better as a full spectrum bit of reportage on the whole art scene of the 80s, its players and trends and the full array of pretentious boors and charlatans that made make up that scene There are so many names dropped, though, that I found it best not to worry overmuch about remembering who they were and to simply keep plowing through.The book attempts with varying degrees of success to nail down the enigmatic personality of Basquiat, wisely letting various voices speak, and in that crazy quilt of voices one gains convergence as often as divergence It s a portrait not unlike a Basquiat painting.One theme repeated throughout the book is that Basquiat was just as much a user as he was used.I found this a very informative read, though it did take awhile for it to really gain momentum. Well I actually liked this book quite a bit I should point out right away that you won t learn anything about Basquiat s work reading it, but I didn t truthfully expect to That s not why I picked it up The book is strictly about the artist s life and times, both of which were a hot mess From everything recounted here, the eighties art market in New York sounds completely deranged not that it s much different now, I suspect.The portrait of Basquiat that emerges is not pretty, but judging from the number of sources, it s probably pretty accurate impossibly childlike, uncontrollable, completely incapable of coping with the tasks of day to day life or of reining in his appetite for drugs, women, and alcohol From the start of his career, he was a functioning addict By the end he was just an addict The later parts of the book read like every episode of VH1 s Behind the Music ever Unfortunately, the drugs, booze and out of control womanizing had begun to get in the way of the music or in this case, the art This is a painter who lived and died like Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, or Janis Joplin.For me, the most interesting parts of the Basquiat story are sociological The book is full of tales of art dealers showing up at Basquiat s studio with duffel bags full of untraceable cash which they traded for paintings which were barely finished They must have known, given how much coke and heroin Basquiat would leave lying around, where that cash was going They just didn t care because they also knew how much money they stood to make off of the paintings While he was still hot, of course.As damning as the portrayal of art dealers is and it s damning, especially when Hoban comes to Vrej Baghoomian, a bottom feeder who swooped in to exploit what was left of the artist when Basquiat already had one foot in the grave , Basquiat himself doesn t exactly come out clean He was ruthlessly exploited by a deeply cynical and almost entirely white art world, which used him up and then grew tired of him and cast him aside But he was complicit in his own exploitation He allowed himself to be used because, in the beginning, he so badly wanted what was offered fame, adulation, money And as his addiction took over, he just couldn t help himself any There are also plenty of behavioral signs that he hated himself, his aspirations, and even his own success listening to his headphones throughout a dinner with important collectors who admired his work, painting on a dealer s expensive mattress rather than the canvases provided out of spite, etc I suspect that Basquiat did this kind of thing because he hated the hands that fed him and hated himself for being unable to kick himself loose This sort of behavior would have gotten a less fashionable, less potentially lucrative artist kicked out on his ass Instead, everyone around him ignored it or enabled it, and cashed in later And the race issue is right underneath everything Basquiat said he didn t exploit his ethnic background or the, uh, racially charged perception of the black artist as primitive or instinctual I m not so sure, but he certainly knew that his dealers viewed him that way and marketed him that way The knowledge that he was capitulating in exchange for fame and money couldn t have been easy to take And if it made him feel like destroying himself, the drugs were his for the asking This is a profoundly sad life story.The work is the work, of course And far from fading out, Basquiat has been posthumously canonized by the art historical establishment He s in every textbook that deals with the eighties But for me, and I think for Hoban, it s extremely difficult to separate the work from the context that made him a star There s no question that the paintings, the early paintings, have juice Fresh, surprising, energetic, raw, powerful Plenty of talent, and the kind of unteachable confidence and conviction that an artist needs But for me, the thought of what he might have done, had he lived in a saner, loving world, is unavoidable.

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  • Paperback
  • 393 pages
  • Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art
  • Phoebe Hoban
  • English
  • 21 June 2019
  • 9780143035121

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