This page features a compliation of excerpts from the
by Phoebe Hoban. I found this book to be an excellent reference into
the personality and life of Basquiat. The descriptions of Jean-Michel's
charcter by the people who knew or were acquainted with him at some point
in his life are detailed and insightful. These are some of the details
of his personality that I particularly found interesting. There are many
more details that describe him as fun, unique, full of life, child like
"About five feet,
ten inches tall, Basquiat had been a runner as a teenager, and he had
an athlete's grace. His charisma and sex appeal were magnets for women
of all ages. Basquait was aware of this power, and his confidence often
bordered on cockiness, but he never seemed to feel completely comfortable
in his own skin."
"He enjoyed portraying himself as a bum.
Not just as a comment on the racism he often felt, but as an homage
to the Beat movement. He eagerly disowned his family. When people
asked about his background, he would pretend he was a street urchin,
and friends were often surprised when they learned that his father
was a middle-class accountant."
||"With the exception
of one or two brief encounters, virtually all of Basquiat's lovers
were white; indeed, a number of them were classic blondes. His romances
would begin obsessively, the artist in hot pursuit until he made his
conquest, at which point he would drop the confused object of desire.
Then, suddenly, he would attempt to rekindle the relationship. The
second acceptance, a kind of return of the prodigal boyfriend was
a double victory, and he sometimes continued a fling, on and off,
Left: Basquiat and Maddona who he had a short relationship with
Left: Basquiat and Jennifer Goode. He had the longest standing and
most serious relationship with her.
Right: Basquiat and Suzanne Mallouk another relationship that continued
on and off for a number of years
|"There was something one couldn't quite explain,
some mystery of Jean-Michel. You could see it in his eyes. And it
used to scare people, what his eyes looked like. Or if you weren't
scared, there was something compelling about him. And he knew that,
he worked it. Some people couldn't take it. He was a brilliant painter,
a horrible egotist, he was a total selfish brat, he was a kind, gentle,
pained spirit, he was a hurt little boy, and arrogant old man, and
everything in between. He was just a rare person. Look at his art."
the time he first started making money, Basquiat was known for his
inordinate generosity; he would hand out fifty- and one-hundred-dollar
bills to bums, or tuck cash into the pockets of homeless people
sleeping on the street. Basquait's attitude toward money was as
conflicted as his attitude toward success: on the one hand, by deliberately
mismanaging his finances, he was, once again, rebelling against
his accountant father. On the other hand, he lavished gifts on girlfriends
and hangers-on, as if he were somehow trying to buy love."
day, he went out and bought maybe three color TV's, a big recording
thing, stereos, suits. I mean he must have spent ten thousand dollars,
and he came back with he delivery guy and they unloaded it all and
then he sat down on the couch and started crying like a little kid.
He would buy cakes and fill the whole refrigerator with French pastries
until they would go bad. He was doing so much coke that he would
wake up in the middle of the night, screaming, 'The CIA is going
to kill me.' So we put a sophisticated alarm system on all the windows.
He thought the CIA was going to kill him because he was a famous
needed constant sources of excitement, in whatever form that took,
whether it was money or sex or drugs or pain. He was just like a
kind of tragic figure, someone who when they just can't get any
more, ends up with a feeling of this crashing emptiness, and finally
"Basquiat was spending upwards of $300
a day on heroin at this point. And then it escalated, and his sources
dried up, and so he had to start going to the street. And he'd have
to do more of the street stuff because it wasn't as strong. It made
him function less and less, and he painted less and less. His paintings
were getting muddier. They weren't as clear. But he still idolized
people who took heroin. He loved William Burroughs."
"By now Basquait was almost a recluse.
He dressed in pajamas, could often be seen pedaling his small red
bike to the East Village for drugs. He was quickly eroding into
a mer caricature; a cartoon junkie with predictably mercurial ups
and downs. The child-like idiosyncrasies that contributed not only
to his charisma but to his talent had degenerated into a perverse
series of behavioral tics. His bad-boy routine was getting boring,
as was his formulaic painting."
"But most of all, he seemed
to feel totally alone. The year since Andy (Andy Warhol) died had been
awful. He missed Andy unbearable, and said that his best times had been
with Andy. He continued his litany of sorrow between hits of heroin, aiming
the needle into his neck or his hand."
"Basquiat's drug addiction- the wool over his
eyes- insulated him from the increasingly painful truth; that success
had an untenable price. But even drugs could not blind him to the fact
that in the harsh reality of the marketplace, all that mattered was profit.
And the more successful he became, the less the quality of his art actually
mattered. Nor could success buy him the love he craved. He had lost Warhol
and Jennifer ( Jennifer Goode was the longest standing romatic relationship
Basquiat held with a woman. ). And in the last year, he had barely communicated
with his father. Basquiat tried to anesthetize himself with drugs, but
he couldn't escape the fact that the very success he had always sought
was destroying him."