Exclusive: "I Don't Know If People Really Understand The True Story Of Basquiat"

Thursday, Dec 22, 2011 4:20PM

Written by Cyrus Langhorne

In honor today marking late painter Jean-Michel Basquiat's 51st birthday, SOHH reached out to artist Justin Bua for his take on hip-hop's growing appreciation for the famed Neo-expressionist's works.

While Bua understands Basquiat's artwork has drawn enormous popularity, he also questions fans' true intentions and knowledge of the late painter's background.

"I think this generation doesn't have an [ability] to get exposed to art and that's why I do my artist posters. I want to make this culture exposed to hip-hop, exposed to artwork," Bua told SOHH. "Everybody that sees my work has access to it. Art exists on museum walls. But when you have [affluent art collectors such as] Kanye West and Swizz Beatz, it's different because you're dealing with people who have an enormous amount of money that most people don't have and access to.  With my work, I make it accessible to people because it's not for me, it's for the people, by the people. I credit myself as well as a lot of street artists to make artwork accessible to the younger generations of hip-hop so that they can be aware of it. As Kanye West buys art and people continue buying Basquiat, that's fine, but try to also look to people who are really a part of this culture as well. There's a lot of us out there and a lot of artists do need support. Not by people who are dead like Basquiat. Is Basquiat's work cool? Yes. But Basquiat was also a proxy of [famed artist] Andy Warhol. So I don't know if people really understand the true story of Basquiat. Who knows if people are just buying the works because it just has value to it. I like to think of my work as more [resonating for its material value], but that it resonates emotionally with someone." (SOHH)

Super producer Swizz Beatz even has Basquiat's likeness tattooed on his body.

Swizz Beatz and M.I.A. posted a photo of themselves in the studio on 4/20, and now video taken at the same session has hit the 'Net. In the clip, a blond MIA asks Swizz, an avid art collector, about the Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring painting he has in his home. The 'Money in the Bank' rapper then showed off tattoos of both artists on his arm as well as of Shepard Fairey and Andy Warhol. (The Boom Box)

The late painter/graffiti artist's legacy has also reportedly influenced rap stars like Jay-Z and Rick Ross.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, who got his start in SAMO, a graffiti collective in Manhattan's early-'80s downtown scene, and became a famed painter before his death at 27, has been name-checked in numerous tracks in the last two years by the likes of Jay-Z, Nas, Kanye West and Rick Ross, bringing his story and work to the attention of a new generation. (New York Times)

Not only a fan of Basquiat and art, Nas recently sold his own painting for $14,000.

It was only $14,000. No big deal. Nas slapped a bit of watercolor and scribbled some washable marker onto an oversized sketchpad, all while rapping his classic "Made You Look." As fans recorded every second on their smartphones, the rap icon produced a masterpiece right before our eyes in proper Art Basel fashion. Five bids later and it sold -- a $14,000 charity bid from the host of the party, photographer Rashid Johnson. (Miami New Times)

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