Jean-Michel Basquiat: The negligence of a genius

Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat

It is almost 30 years since Jean-Michel Basquiat died in New York. Aged only 27 years, he had been hailed as a great visual artist with roots in the street, graffiti. Now, a major exhibition of his work opened at the Barbican in London. Her friend Jennifer Stein recalls working with jean-michel Basquiat in the early days that she thinks that were her most happy.

Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jennifer von Holstein – otherwise known as Jennifer Stein – is jetlagged from her long flight from Seattle. She is in London for the new exhibition, Basquiat: Boom for Real. She is exhausted, but, nevertheless, delighted to speak of the complete study to the Barbican of the short, brilliant career of his friend Basquiat.

These days, she lives in a rural area of the State of Washington in the us Pacific north-west. Her husband makes the organ and she has three children, all of which – she says – are now older than Basquiat was when he died of a drug overdose in 1988. She says that it seems from another world, but she remembers Basquiat, with real affection.

Jennifer Stein

“I think I have fed a family of my own, I look back on these days with an idea I haven’t owned before. And I see more clearly what happened to Jean-Michel.”

In 1979, she met Basquiat at a party in a loft on Canal Street, in Manhattan, where she lived. “People in the art world had talked about a mysterious graffiti artist named SAMO, who has been the marking of the sites of New York. Then, Jean-Michel spray-painted graffiti on the inside wall of the loft, and I ran and grabbed him and said, “I’ve been looking for you’. And he looked at me and smiled the biggest smile in the world. He asked me why I was there and I said well I live here. And this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat

Basquiat was sometimes described as having escaped from poverty. In reality, it was the education of the son of a middle-class Haitian and puerto Rican family, who has set his sights on a career in art Vital career was meeting and becoming friends with Andy Warhol a few months after, he met Jennifer Stein.

Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat

“Jean-Michel was really taken in my bedroom on Canal Street, I had a whole series of baseball cards that I had painted the faces of. He laughed so hard and then he took the white corrector, I have been using and began to write the names on the cards.” Jennifer saw that their artistic contributions as a whole meant the cards became unusual and interesting – and could even sell.

“We were not much more than children and we had no money. So we Mimeographed these colors, and cards sold in the street. We performed a large closet around and cried out postcards for the sale of less than$ 1!

“We did that all day and some days, we would maybe make $5 and there was a day we made $20 – it was a big deal. Most people were looking at us and how we were acting and those crazy, arty cards and just ignored us. But I think people with a sense of humour appreciated the manner in which Jean-Michel and I made the cards and I am delighted to see on the screen of London.”

Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat

Stein said that the cards have for the most part been hidden for years. “But I could see that Eleanor Nairne at the Barbican was going to organize the new show nice and she did a great job making me see the world of art would like to have these examples of Jean-Michel’s work before all the money and all the glory.”

Basquiat did not even 20 years ago when the art world began to take notice of its bright colors work, which quickly developed from graffiti roots. Soon, he did not need to walk in the streets touting $1 postcards. Stein saw his friend’s rapid ascent into the artistic stratosphere.

“I understand how it happened and I saw it happen – but it did not seem real. I think that it does not seem real to him. I feel in a lot of ways, it would have been more nourished by the people who gave him the success. It began in a night of flash, an explosion. Jean-Michel of the entire ten-year career just before his death at the age of 27 years.”

Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat

Stein said to become a mother, later, gave a point of view extra on his friend’s career and an early death.

“I see now that the age is not old enough to make sense of this amount of money and all the fame and attention. Maybe he would still be with us today, if these people who facilitated his career has seen that, although it was an artistic genius, inside he was really very young. They should have known.”

The ennipainter died of a heroin overdose came when he was 27 – a fact which tends to consolidate its image as the art world equivalent of a rock star. Stein said the comparison is valid. “In many ways, he was a rock star. And the more I’ve looked since the trajectory of his life, the more I realize that in the 1980s, Jean-Michel has not been maintained by the people who needed to take care of him.”

Stein watched as Basquiat’s career took off, apparently without limits. “But I don’t think this part was the most happy for him. The happy time for Jean-Michel was at the point I met him through maybe 1982 or ‘ 83. It was the time to make postcards. It was pre-drugs, pre-money, pre-fame. Free-wheeling, and being a nut – that is what Jean-Michel has loved you.”

Basquiat: Boom for Real ” is at the Barbican in London until 28 January 2018.