Written by Rosie Alaraj
Jean Michel Basquiat was a Neo-Expressionist artist born and raised in New York. I learned this information a few weeks ago when I was first introduced to Jean Michel Basquiat by Dinah Clottey, the creator of T’kor Couture. I loved being able to hear about him from her perspective because of how much awe and admiration she has for his work. After our chat about Basquiat, I felt like I started hearing about him everywhere I went. It was sort of like when you learned a new word in school and then the word started coming up in every conversation you had, but, in reality, it was just you noticing it because the word was top-of-mind. Even if that was the case, hearing more about his story and his art made me so excited to learn more about him and write this article for the debut of T’kor Couture’s Social Uplift page! So let’s dive in…
Jean Michel Basquiat
While growing up in New York, Basquiat discovered himself, his passions, and his talents. Throughout his childhood, he was known as a troublemaker in school because he was bored in the classroom setting. He had always been a smart and talented kid, from learning everything about the “medical Bible'' Gray's Anatomy to becoming an active member of the Brooklyn Museum to becoming fluent in multiple languages, he was always learning and growing despite the limitations he felt in school. He ended up leaving school at 17 years old to follow his dream of becoming an artist. He started rising to fame in the art world in the early 1980s when his art pieces like “Untitled” and “Versus Medici” started making waves.
Basquiat was someone dedicated to reclaiming and reshaping the Black experience through his art. He had always known he was meant for greatness and had the dedication, passion, work ethic, and confidence to become an exceptionally talented, successful, and timeless artist. One of the most beautiful videos I watched to learn more about Basquiat was a conversation his sisters had about his life and success. There was one story of their brother where he came back home in a limousine with his “huge dreadlocks” and nice clothes heading to his first art show gallery exclaiming “Papa, I made it.” His sisters’ explained how proud they were to see him find his purpose and find success doing what he loved. His family and life experiences led him to become the great artist we remember him as being today, and I think the beauty of talking about him in his purest form as a son, a brother, and a friend is the best way to talk about him not only as a wonderful artist but also as a person.
Redefining the Crown
The crown motif is one of the most iconic symbols used in Basquiat’s artwork. He would place a crown on himself and his idols to break through the barriers and constrictions of how Black people were portrayed in art and society. The way he “sainted” these icons through his paintings was Basquiat’s way of redefining the notions of race and power. Being a Black man in America heavily impacted his life and art career; there was this challenge of defending his art and his humanity while sharing his collections with the world. He would be pigeonholed as a “black artist” instead of just being called an artist. His work would still be referred to as graffiti in a derogatory way at the peak of his fame. He would be outwardly frustrated and embarrassed in interviews because of strange, borderline disrespectful questions asked by the interviewers. Even when he was creating a collection with a world-renowned artist, Andy Warhol, he was degraded by critics by being referred to as Warhol’s “mascot.” Being Black and showcasing his artwork to the world meant he constantly had to defend his identity and image. Placing a crown on black icons was his way of drowning out the noise and using his fame and talent to ensure Black people were seen as royals. Through his art, he was taking a stance and reclaiming what years of oppression, degradation, and disenfranchisement took away from the Black community. His art and legacy showcase that he was a force to be reckoned with.
The Legacy of Jean Michel Basquiat
Jean Michel Basquiat was able to work with and befriend some of the greats during his time as an artist. He created over 2,000 pieces each one as stunning as the last with the same, powerful, undiluted message of protecting Black excellence, culture, and legacy. He was a bright light of charisma, drive, passion, and talent, and even after his untimely death, his artwork and legacy continue to live on today. Basquiat's reclaiming of power and disruption in the art scene is what inspired T’kor Couture to use a crown symbol with our brand. T’kor Couture is all about empowering our clients with pieces that embody strength, beauty, and confidence. Over 40 years after his death, Basquiat is still inspiring the younger generations of artists with his timeless pieces and themes in his artwork, and T’kor Couture believes it is our purpose to continue his legacy by educating ourselves and our communities about Jean Michel Basquiat and creating a brand that emphasizes and embodies the greatness of Black art and culture.
Jean-Michel Basquiat. The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. (n.d.). Retrieved November 3, 2022, from https://www.basquiat.com/
Publicdelivery. (2022, May 26). What does the Crown in Basquiat's paintings mean? – Public Delivery. Retrieved November 3, 2022, from https://publicdelivery.org/basquiat-crown/
YouTube. (2021). YouTube. Retrieved November 3, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHePKNTRmdI.
YouTube. (2022). YouTube. Retrieved November 3, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-kYompsyLU.