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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 th 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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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 th 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.

30 review for Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art

  1. 5 out of 5

    Evan

    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. 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 more than 20 years ago. It was that kind of ethos, marked by the crass commodification of art -- or more 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 more 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.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Clidston

    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 f 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 anymore. 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, more loving world, is unavoidable.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Book Haunt

    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 e 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 ‘more.’ If you asked JeanMichel what he wanted, the answer would be ‘more.’ He was never happy. He was obsessive about everything. He wanted more, 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.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    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 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.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Erica "RivaFlowz"

    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 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.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Less_cunning

    basic narrative peppered with ancedotes.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Evelyn

    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- 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 more opportunities to see Basquiat's work in person.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Brezaja

    I 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 more, 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 I 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 more, 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.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Eliza

    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 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.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jaylon

    “A QUICK KILLING IN ART” By: Jean-Michel Basquiat Brooklyn's finest Jean-Michel Basquiat is one of the iconic artists to come from his city Brooklyn. His graffiti work was a very legendary art work that he mastered back in his time. Basquiat is a trend setter, most of the trends you see today in the pop and art culture came from Basquiat himself. He was a very unique young man for his age and didn’t care about the negative opinion from people or credits which what made him to be great, They wa “A QUICK KILLING IN ART” By: Jean-Michel Basquiat Brooklyn's finest Jean-Michel Basquiat is one of the iconic artists to come from his city Brooklyn. His graffiti work was a very legendary art work that he mastered back in his time. Basquiat is a trend setter, most of the trends you see today in the pop and art culture came from Basquiat himself. He was a very unique young man for his age and didn’t care about the negative opinion from people or credits which what made him to be great, They was starting to call Basquiat the Jimmy Hendrix of art world because of his retro affect. I like this because it describes a young man from Brooklyn that is an outstanding artist that will change the art world in Brooklyn, but just when you think things is going well it’s always something that ruins it. Young Basquiat will change the art world after taking this bad route to interfere with his talent, dreams, hard-work and career. His decision were poor and sad at the same time. I wish he had someone to guide him in the right way for him to make good decisions and maybe he will be a bigger name in art then what he is now. Also he was determine, I say because he ran away from home to pursue his dream and became a street artist. A few things I didn’t like about the book was how it’s not really a mystery to find out about the story because it pretty much tells you a lot you need to know about what’s going to happen in the introduction of the book. One of the good things about the book is how it shows life lessons because you can be on top of the world for a minute and then as soon as you make a bad choice it can all vanish in a second. This happens with a lot of people in different things such as music, sports, entertainment, school and any career or goal, people let things that are not good for them to be involved in their life causing for their future to crash and shatter in to pieces. If you love something with a passion you should cherish and protect by any means necessary, because you don’t want to be that could have been this or could have been that person who always complaining. Be the person that is, so you can be the present even though your work was the past. When you start to do that you will become great forever and not just for the moment. So your kids or grand children can look up to you and not make the same mistakes that you did when you was younger, so they can also keep the legacy going in the family tree. I hope you guys liked the review I provided, also I hope this make you want to find out about Jean-Michael Basquiat, take here.

  11. 5 out of 5

    GK Stritch

    "Everything that happened in the eighties had to do with greed and speed." Mary Boone (p.251), well, maybe not everything, but apparently very much so in the art world--harsh. "Everything that happened in the eighties had to do with greed and speed." Mary Boone (p.251), well, maybe not everything, but apparently very much so in the art world--harsh.

  12. 5 out of 5

    LiteraryMarie

    Even if you lived in a cardboard box, never walked the streets of New York or stepped foot inside of a gallery, you surely heard the name Jean-Michel Basquiat. He was a young international painter mentored by Andy Warhol, known for his meteoric rise, graffiti art and signature words with a copyright symbol and crown. In less than a decade, he took over the art world and became an international artist. Unfortunately, his career ended far too soon as he died at the age of 27 years old from a drug Even if you lived in a cardboard box, never walked the streets of New York or stepped foot inside of a gallery, you surely heard the name Jean-Michel Basquiat. He was a young international painter mentored by Andy Warhol, known for his meteoric rise, graffiti art and signature words with a copyright symbol and crown. In less than a decade, he took over the art world and became an international artist. Unfortunately, his career ended far too soon as he died at the age of 27 years old from a drug overdose. Nearly thirty years after his death, Basquiat is still recognized and his story is beyond vividly interesting. Based on hundreds of interviews done between August 1988 and November 1997, Phoebe Hoban goes into detail with Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art. It begins with his childhood, family life, teenage years and his brief adult life. The novel also covers the 1980s art scene, Basquiat's influence on art culture, the graffiti movement and inner workings of art galleries and dealers. Basquiat was so much more than just a young black kid who wrote on buildings and sold art for millions. He is an icon. His black identity shows throughout his signature art. A Quick Killing in Art is the best biography, complete with a photo gallery, for those interested in reading an accurate tale on Basquiat, exploitation, fame, addiction and art dealers during the 1980s. This novel left me wondering, had Basquiat not died young and lost his life to drugs, what more he might have contributed to the art and hip hop culture. It is impossible to ignore the international legend that is Jean-Michel Basquiat. Happy Official Pub Day, Phoebe Hoban!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    Full marks to Phoebe Hoban for the amount of research and the number of people she interviewed for this book. I’m sure there can’t be a single person who crossed Basquiat’s path who doesn’t get at least a mention. Plenty of name-dropping for those who enjoy that sort of thing, for sure. And there’s hardly a drug deal that doesn’t get a mention either. My main impression of Basquiat is that he took drugs – not that he was an artist. Although his so-called talent is surely a matter of controversy. Full marks to Phoebe Hoban for the amount of research and the number of people she interviewed for this book. I’m sure there can’t be a single person who crossed Basquiat’s path who doesn’t get at least a mention. Plenty of name-dropping for those who enjoy that sort of thing, for sure. And there’s hardly a drug deal that doesn’t get a mention either. My main impression of Basquiat is that he took drugs – not that he was an artist. Although his so-called talent is surely a matter of controversy. Hoban doesn’t talk much about the art at all, but that’s ok. I’m sure other writers explore that aspect of Basquiat’s brief and wasted life in great detail in other books, although some illustrations here would have been helpful. Hoban is obviously more interested in the social scene, and the art world in general, and that’s fine too. But my, it does get tedious. I really couldn’t work up any enthusiasm for these vacuous and drug-fuelled lives, for these greedy art dealers, for these unhappy fame obsessed people. What a sad and empty place 1980s New York was. And what a waste of space Basquiat was. I could find no redeeming features in him at all. If he had any talent – and I rather doubt that in spite of the astronomical prices his works command – he was determined to waste it. And if he had any finer feelings, he was equally determined not to let them shine through. I found this book really really depressing. Hoban seems to admire many of the people she writes about; there’s a certain element of hagiography in her writing for sure, but for me the whole scene seemed just so sad. However, for what it is, the book is wide-ranging and informative and I learnt a lot.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Una Rose

    I really enjoyed this book. Part art biography, part overview of the frenetic downtown art scene of the 80s, part social commentary and part hot downtown gossip, I found it to be immensely readable and interesting, especially for any lover of modern art and hip modern culture. I knew who Jean-Michael Baquiat was as did every other hipster, art obessed student in the 1980s. As a Generation X member it was more a stroll down memory lane than anything exciting and new but the author does capture ver I really enjoyed this book. Part art biography, part overview of the frenetic downtown art scene of the 80s, part social commentary and part hot downtown gossip, I found it to be immensely readable and interesting, especially for any lover of modern art and hip modern culture. I knew who Jean-Michael Baquiat was as did every other hipster, art obessed student in the 1980s. As a Generation X member it was more a stroll down memory lane than anything exciting and new but the author does capture very well the way things were. The hipster 1980s-Drugs, hip extreme poverty, AIDs, sex, art and the stars all from downtown. It was a fasinating and exciting time culturally. Many new movements were born and everything was authentic. I never knew the life story of JMB but found his story plausible and familiar. So 1980s punk hipster. His excesses were great but really average for the time; it was his art that was standout. Whatever his tragedy or failings as a person that alone makes this biography sparkle and shine. Beyond the art, he was just an average, drug addicted, downtown hipster and I thought the author described both sides of him and both worlds very well. I was left feeling a little disturbed after finishing reading the book. The era covered in this biography was a magic and brutal time for the young- extreme, innocent freedom at very great costs. Sad to have lost such a blazing talent to it all but we can be comforted by the great work JMB left behind. This biography, I think, captures the essense of this tragedy and the ascention of art over it and perhaps this is what gives this book its substance. All in all a fasinating and enjoyable book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dani Robinson

    I received a free review copy of the book through Netgalley It's not exactly a page turner but I learned a lot of details about Basquiat's life. I will confess I didn't know much before this. I requested to review this book because I recognized Basquiat from Andy Warhol's work. Warhol is one of my favorites. on thing I learned for sure Basquiat lived and incredibly tragic life and died so young. it seems there was very little joy in his life starting at a very young age. An abusive home life, lea I received a free review copy of the book through Netgalley It's not exactly a page turner but I learned a lot of details about Basquiat's life. I will confess I didn't know much before this. I requested to review this book because I recognized Basquiat from Andy Warhol's work. Warhol is one of my favorites. on thing I learned for sure Basquiat lived and incredibly tragic life and died so young. it seems there was very little joy in his life starting at a very young age. An abusive home life, leading to choosing homelessness and prostitution. And let's not forget all the drugs, the thing that would eventually lead to his death at 27 years old. He striped and wanted fame success so badly that he let went from selling sex to selling himself to the highest bidder. he let whatever gallery owner or artist or promoter that made him the best deal and could get him the most shows take full advantage of and exploit him. He went from relationship to relationship and wound up with STDS and so much drama. He did find incredible success but never found and peace, wholeness, or stability. I would recommend this book to a fan of Basquiat for sure. Someone who is familiar with and a fan of his work and would like to leant about the man behind the art. I learned a little bit about his style and medium of choice but not any in depth account of his most famous pieces.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Beatrice

    Gosspiy technicalites boring.Hard to keep up with pages and pages of name dropping, but at same time hard to hold back from trying to keep track of who's who. Just like being caught up in a "scene" I guess. So maybe you can call that a neat effect, if it works on you. Only 4 paragraghs out of whole book go into any actual in depth analysis of Basquiat's work. Mostly it's just details of who, when , and where so and so discovered basquait's work ,that they were floored by the art and how much the Gosspiy technicalites boring.Hard to keep up with pages and pages of name dropping, but at same time hard to hold back from trying to keep track of who's who. Just like being caught up in a "scene" I guess. So maybe you can call that a neat effect, if it works on you. Only 4 paragraghs out of whole book go into any actual in depth analysis of Basquiat's work. Mostly it's just details of who, when , and where so and so discovered basquait's work ,that they were floored by the art and how much they threw down to get a piece of him. As shallow as all the characters of the NY 80's art scene were-- it's intriguing how they all share the same intense drive to be rich and famous, and that this seems to be what brings them togther and fuels the scene. It's intersting too that it's main players are quite aware that they are shaping a scene, with the creation of their legendary clubs and art events. There is sensitivity and insight of who Basquiat really was and how his awkward place in this scene consumed him. That aspect of the book serves well. -- oh geez- The chapter of the brief relationship of Basquiat and Madonna is pretty coool. So fun read to read about Madonna and how different she is than everybody else (besides the determination to be famous)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jerry Peace

    This is both an exhilarating and profoundly sad book. The New York art world of the 80's-experimental, energetic, frantic even, with a synthetic skin of visual and music. Basquiat attacking his canvases, throwing symbols and words and iconic figures onto everything he could get his hands on- that part of Hoban's story is thrilling. Underpinning Basquiat's story is the ubiquitous crouch of drugs, so omnipresent that I wonder what he would have been like at forty or fifty. And overarching his stor This is both an exhilarating and profoundly sad book. The New York art world of the 80's-experimental, energetic, frantic even, with a synthetic skin of visual and music. Basquiat attacking his canvases, throwing symbols and words and iconic figures onto everything he could get his hands on- that part of Hoban's story is thrilling. Underpinning Basquiat's story is the ubiquitous crouch of drugs, so omnipresent that I wonder what he would have been like at forty or fifty. And overarching his story is the stripped down, unapologetic greed of the Reagan 80's, the avarice that takes over art world as it did so much of the high flying America, those cravings where fame supplants art into a kind of predecessor of reality tv- once you become, for whatever reason, the Next Big Thing, you no longer have to Do anything. You simply are. And art becomes like everything else can, and I believe has, in America- an investment. I loved Hoban's recounting the story of Basquiat's life. I just don't like anybody I read about.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Aj

    This was the first book I have actually read about Basquiat and it was first published in 1997. I have to say that while I learned more about Basquiat with this book and I was not shocked to learn of the drug abuse or the mental issues nor of the family schism frankly what disgusted me with this book in a sense was the tone. While pointing out the obvious racism and dismissiveness with which Basquiat was met with during his life and his period as one of the worlds most famous artists, the tone i This was the first book I have actually read about Basquiat and it was first published in 1997. I have to say that while I learned more about Basquiat with this book and I was not shocked to learn of the drug abuse or the mental issues nor of the family schism frankly what disgusted me with this book in a sense was the tone. While pointing out the obvious racism and dismissiveness with which Basquiat was met with during his life and his period as one of the worlds most famous artists, the tone itself had a hint of shall I say lack of sensitivity as to where race was concerned. And some of the assertions are incorrect, for instance that Basquiat was Andy Warhols protege. Hogwash. I am going to look at other books on Basquiat and see what view they give. I can't outright reccomend this.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Castille

    I liked this book and thought it was well researched and written. Given the subject matter, I would've expected it to be a little more editorialized and exciting, but Hoban wrote the piece in a straightforward manner. I personally would've enjoyed it more were it written with a more sensationalist tone or presented more like a novel (like one of the books I recently reviewed, Kierkegaard: A Life). I did learn many interesting tidbits that I didn't previously know, even though I've read and watch I liked this book and thought it was well researched and written. Given the subject matter, I would've expected it to be a little more editorialized and exciting, but Hoban wrote the piece in a straightforward manner. I personally would've enjoyed it more were it written with a more sensationalist tone or presented more like a novel (like one of the books I recently reviewed, Kierkegaard: A Life). I did learn many interesting tidbits that I didn't previously know, even though I've read and watched most of the literature, narrative films, and documentaries about Basquiat. If you are looking for a comprehensive history of Basquiat and the era in which he created his art, look no further. If you are looking for something which is an artistic piece unto itself, I might suggest Widow Basquiat.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    The story of a talented artist who knew how to work the art market to his advantage. The book is all about how dealers, collectors, artists, all use each other to conjure huge sums of money out of thin air, based on marketing, trends, and art fads. The tragic part is that Basquiat was actually extremely talented. He really did have bright new ideas at the beginning of his career. But as his drug addiction consumed the remaining parts of him, his work declined, became repetitive, and formulaic, un The story of a talented artist who knew how to work the art market to his advantage. The book is all about how dealers, collectors, artists, all use each other to conjure huge sums of money out of thin air, based on marketing, trends, and art fads. The tragic part is that Basquiat was actually extremely talented. He really did have bright new ideas at the beginning of his career. But as his drug addiction consumed the remaining parts of him, his work declined, became repetitive, and formulaic, until he completely lost himself, his art, and his life. Like your foot is caught in a train track, and you can see it rushing toward you.. I winced through this book, knowing the end from the first page.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Comprehensive look at Basquiat's short but very eventful life, with a broader focus on the context in which he made his work--the 80s art market, the rise of graffiti culture, the downtown NY music and art scene, etc--and that's what really kept me invested. Basquiat was an interesting, complicated guy, but I'm not especially engaged by his artwork, and he was kind of a misogynist. It's the world he moved within that really appealed to me, and the ways in which he moved through it. Hoban's book Comprehensive look at Basquiat's short but very eventful life, with a broader focus on the context in which he made his work--the 80s art market, the rise of graffiti culture, the downtown NY music and art scene, etc--and that's what really kept me invested. Basquiat was an interesting, complicated guy, but I'm not especially engaged by his artwork, and he was kind of a misogynist. It's the world he moved within that really appealed to me, and the ways in which he moved through it. Hoban's book is often gossipy (not that I'm complaining, loved getting that behind the scenes/behind people's backs info), but her extensive research and thoughtful writing pulls the threads of an often enigmatic artist's experiences together quite well, and opens up the art world of his time.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kirsten (lush.lit.life)

    Outstanding. I took my time with this one and allowed myself to make many research excursions to better understand the East Village art scene of the early 80’s. His rise and self-destruction and legacy make for an interesting personal tale, but also exemplify the larger story about fame and greed and exploitation and art world trends (into the present day). On the periphery it makes an interesting study of the group of creative people who converged in the East Village in the late 70’s early 80’s Outstanding. I took my time with this one and allowed myself to make many research excursions to better understand the East Village art scene of the early 80’s. His rise and self-destruction and legacy make for an interesting personal tale, but also exemplify the larger story about fame and greed and exploitation and art world trends (into the present day). On the periphery it makes an interesting study of the group of creative people who converged in the East Village in the late 70’s early 80’s – inspiring and influencing each other. It was helpful to access images of the art online as I read.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Stacey Lechner

    Thank you to Net Galley and Open Road Integrated Media for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This was an interesting look at the art world and painter Jean-Michel Basquiat in the 1980s. It was a very thorough and extensive book and for me was a little long and spent a lot of time on people who weren't as intriguing to me as Basquiat. A lot of time spent devoted to art critics and dealers and I wanted to read more about Basquiat. The author clearly knows much about her subject Thank you to Net Galley and Open Road Integrated Media for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This was an interesting look at the art world and painter Jean-Michel Basquiat in the 1980s. It was a very thorough and extensive book and for me was a little long and spent a lot of time on people who weren't as intriguing to me as Basquiat. A lot of time spent devoted to art critics and dealers and I wanted to read more about Basquiat. The author clearly knows much about her subject and the art scene, but could have done with a little bit of editing down. Overall this book paints a good picture of New York and the scent and the people who inhabited it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

    I really enjoyed this book, more than I thought I would. Tells a factual account of the life of Jean-Michel Basquiat, the Neo-expressionist painter in the '80s, starting with his troubled childhood in Brooklyn to his premature death due to a drug overdose. In addition to providing a window into one of today's most legendary and sought after contemporary (posthumous) artists, this book is fascinating in its description of the '80s art boom and description of the lower east side during that time. I really enjoyed this book, more than I thought I would. Tells a factual account of the life of Jean-Michel Basquiat, the Neo-expressionist painter in the '80s, starting with his troubled childhood in Brooklyn to his premature death due to a drug overdose. In addition to providing a window into one of today's most legendary and sought after contemporary (posthumous) artists, this book is fascinating in its description of the '80s art boom and description of the lower east side during that time.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ernie

    you read this and only wish you knew him. Fuked up guy who was super-cool, honest and passionate. I wouldn't let him get all homosexual on me but He is someone I could have spent a lot of time with had he been one of my friends. I think the tragedy of his death is ill-fated like the rest of the 27 year olds - If he was alive today - like them - he would be saying some of the greatest, most poetic and prolific things on the face of the earth. That man could have taken himself to a new hight and I you read this and only wish you knew him. Fuked up guy who was super-cool, honest and passionate. I wouldn't let him get all homosexual on me but He is someone I could have spent a lot of time with had he been one of my friends. I think the tragedy of his death is ill-fated like the rest of the 27 year olds - If he was alive today - like them - he would be saying some of the greatest, most poetic and prolific things on the face of the earth. That man could have taken himself to a new hight and I believe he would have helped many people; men, women and children, in the art of understanding.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Alex Flynn

    A good history of the 80's art scene and Basquiat's life, but it comes across very superficial. You'll learn the name of everyone he partied with, all the clubs, his girlfriends, boyfriends, dealers, crash pads and the locations of the piles of cocaine. You won't get much insight into his process or what he was trying to accomplish with his art. Or why he even gravitated toward art as an expressive medium other than it was where the money was. It was very gossipy and not what I was looking for, A good history of the 80's art scene and Basquiat's life, but it comes across very superficial. You'll learn the name of everyone he partied with, all the clubs, his girlfriends, boyfriends, dealers, crash pads and the locations of the piles of cocaine. You won't get much insight into his process or what he was trying to accomplish with his art. Or why he even gravitated toward art as an expressive medium other than it was where the money was. It was very gossipy and not what I was looking for, but if you want an anthropological look at 80's downtown excess, its a great book

  27. 5 out of 5

    chandra

    I give it 3 stars because Hoban conducted SO MANY interviews and I have to give her credit for that. However, I think that at best the author makes assumptions about race that she should not, and at worst is just racist, and a cheesy writer, too. It's a must-read in the Basquiat oeuvre, but frustrated the hell out of me. The end of his life (and the book) just turns your stomach, how desperate and depraved he becomes, so sad, and Hoban does a good job of portraying that. I give it 3 stars because Hoban conducted SO MANY interviews and I have to give her credit for that. However, I think that at best the author makes assumptions about race that she should not, and at worst is just racist, and a cheesy writer, too. It's a must-read in the Basquiat oeuvre, but frustrated the hell out of me. The end of his life (and the book) just turns your stomach, how desperate and depraved he becomes, so sad, and Hoban does a good job of portraying that.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Juan

    Basquiat: This book is so amazing it is about an artist that had a terrible childhood witch made him the man he became. When he was a little boy he use to get molested by his fathers friend and fisicly abused by his parents constently. Basquiat lived in the streets for most of life, he did alot of drugs witch mest up his art career in a big way, his art starting gettin less inpresive and more plain. Basquiat was a great artist and he had a message in all of his paintings that he made.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Deena

    I found this book in the garage and I've been breezing through it ever since. Basquiat's wild life is so interesting that it makes up for the author's generic autobiographical style of writing. I've found out all sorts of juice! In fact, honestly, maybe too much. Luckily, there is enough cultural insight into art dealings, new york, new wave, and other characters that Basquiat rolled with- to make up for all the gossip. I found this book in the garage and I've been breezing through it ever since. Basquiat's wild life is so interesting that it makes up for the author's generic autobiographical style of writing. I've found out all sorts of juice! In fact, honestly, maybe too much. Luckily, there is enough cultural insight into art dealings, new york, new wave, and other characters that Basquiat rolled with- to make up for all the gossip.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Vaughnda Johnson

    "Talk about the problems of being a successful artist in New York." "The problems? Specifically which ones...the ones I bring upon myself, or the ones that are brought upon me?" Basquiat interview with Anthony Haden-Guest quoted in this book. This was a quick enjoyable read about dealers, the market and a one artist in the 80s. Very interesting but not a linear biography. I preferred this to a more traditional biography anyhow. "Talk about the problems of being a successful artist in New York." "The problems? Specifically which ones...the ones I bring upon myself, or the ones that are brought upon me?" Basquiat interview with Anthony Haden-Guest quoted in this book. This was a quick enjoyable read about dealers, the market and a one artist in the 80s. Very interesting but not a linear biography. I preferred this to a more traditional biography anyhow.

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