Born to a Haitian father and a Puerto Rican mother, Basquiat left home at the age of sixteen and began to make graffiti under the tag name of SAMO (short for “same old shit”). His rise to critical success was meteoric, as was his life: he died of an overdose at the age of twenty-seven. This is a significant painting in that it embodies many of Basquiat’s characteristic subjects and techniques, and also refers to a specific event in the artist’s personal life. The fistfight at the top of the left rectangle is a stick-figure representation of an actual encounter between two women in a New York nightclub: Basquiat’s girlfriend Suzanne Mallouk (nicknamed Venus) and his lover the singer Madonna, who, despite the copyright symbol beside her name, was not yet a celebrity.
© Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat / SOCAN (2020)