A kid already rich and famous by the time he landed on the cover of The New York Times Magazine at age 24, mocking his success by appearing barefoot in an Armani suit.
Then he was dead.
At New York's Brooklyn Museum, two floors of paintings almost scratch the surface of the universe that was Jean-Michel Basquiat.
You walk in and the place is shaking.
"There's energy. There's vibration. He really understands color," says Marc Mayer, a curator of what has been called "one of the major museum shows of the year." Adds Mayer, "I have never seen acrylic painting where the color is so strong."
It was art by its own rules: anti-establishment, spontaneous, childlike, bold, and flippant. It earned Basquiat an almost immediate following, especially among the young.
"When I was 24, he was the one," says Mayer. "He was the master."
Jean-Michel Basquiat was born December 1960 in Brooklyn, N.Y. His father was Haitian, and his mother Puerto Rican. Often depressed, she was periodically institutionalized. The marriage ended in divorce. The drawing, says his father, Gerard Basquiat,started by age 4. By the age of 9, it was an obsession.
From the beginning, says his father, art was his son's main passion.