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Jean-Michel Basquiat - SAMO

Basquiat loved Jazz. He owned 3000 records, the collection spanning over multiple decades and styles, and he had great admiration for jazz heroes like Charlie Parker, Miles David and Ornette Coleman. He felt close to them, because they were young and strong and inventive, they were looking for something new beyond jazz tradition, which was mirrored in Basquiat’s constant pull and push game with the art establishment. On top of that, he felt they had to face the same kind of pigeon-holing as he did, being reduced to his race by critics, or not being able to catch a cab after a celebrated show of his - much like the black musicians who were allowed to play on stage, but had to use the back door to get into clubs.

Before he became known as a painter, he drew graffiti, mostly in SoHo, New York. With fellow artist Al Diaz, he created SAMO (”same old”, as in same old shit) as a logo and a tag, and what was first an inside joke became kind of a movement, and was described as disjointed street poetry by art critics.

If he was still alive today (he died in 1988 at the age of twenty-seven), one could wonder if he would revive SAMO, which he had declared dead after a spat with Diaz. Questions and doubts that gnawed at him his entire life might still be very much alive today. He paved the way for black artists, and his work generates millions at art auctions, but same old, same old is still very much happening in the States. These days, especially.