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35 Jean-Michel Basquiat Quotes about Art, Life, and More

These Jean-Michel Basquiat quotes from the neo-expressionist artist will have you looking at art and life with a new perspective.

Jean-Michel Basquiat found critical acclaim for his art in his early twenties, leading him to a successful career as an artist at a very young age. He was the youngest artist to ever participate in documenta, an esteemed exhibition of contemporary art in Germany.

He was also the youngest artist to display his art at Whitney Biennial in New York. At 23 years old, he met Andy Warhol who became a good friend and mentor to the young artist.

Though he was young, Basquiat really seemed to understand art and people gravitated toward his work. We hope you enjoy these Jean-Michel Basquiat quotes.

Jean-Michel Basquiat quotes on art

1. “I cross out words so you will see them more; the fact that they are obscured makes you want to read them.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

2. “I start a picture and I finish it. I don’t think about art while I work. I try to think about life.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

3. “Believe it or not, I can actually draw.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

4. “I like kids’ work more than work by real artists any day.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

5. “My favorite Twombly is ‘Apollo and the Artist,’ with the big ‘Apollo’ written across it.”

6. “If you wanna talk about influence, man, then you’ve got to realize that influence is not influence. It’s simply someone’s idea going through my new mind.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

7. “SAMO as an end to mind wash religion, nowhere politics and bogus philosophy.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

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8. “Graffiti has a lot of rules in it as to what you can do and what you can’t do, and I think it’s hard to make art under those conditions.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat quotes on painting

9. “The more I paint the more I like everything.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

10. “The black person is the protagonist in most of my paintings. I realized that I didn’t see many paintings with black people in them.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

11. “If I’m away from painting for a week, I get bored.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

12. “Occasionally, when I get mad at a woman, I’ll do some great, awful painting about her.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

13. “I have a painting where somebody’s holding a chicken, and underneath the chicken is somebody’s head.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

14. “I like to have information rather than just have a brushstroke. Just to have these words to put in these feelings underneath.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

15. “I was trying to communicate an idea; I was trying to paint a very urban landscape.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

16. “I was trying to make paintings different from the paintings that I saw a lot of at the time, which were mostly minimal, and they were highbrow and alienating, and I wanted to make very direct paintings that most people would feel the emotion behind when they saw them.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

If you’re enjoying these quotes, make sure to read our collection of painting quotes about the power of creating with color.

Jean-Michel Basquiat quotes on being an artist

17. “I don’t listen to what art critics say. I don’t know anybody who needs a critic to find out what art is.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

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18. “I am not a black artist, I am an artist.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

19. “I had some money, I made the best paintings ever. I was completely reclusive, worked a lot, took a lot of drugs. I was awful to people.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

If you’re enjoying these quotes, make sure to read our collection of drug quotes on how drug use can affect your mind, body, and spirit.

20. “I was a really lousy artist as a kid. Too abstract expressionist; or I’d draw a big ram’s head, really messy. I’d never win painting contests. I remember losing to a guy who did a perfect Spiderman.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

21. “I wanted to be a star, not a gallery mascot.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

22. “I wanted to be a cartoonist when I was young.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

23. “I think there’s a lot of people that are neglected in art.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

24. “At that point, [an artist] was somebody who could draw, but my ideas have changed since then. Now I see an artist as something a lot broader than that.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat quotes about being a famous artist

25. “I’d think about all my heroes, Charlie Parker, Jimi Hendrix… I had a romantic feeling about how these people became famous.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

26. “Since I was seventeen I thought I might be a star.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

27. “I wanted to build up a name for myself.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

28. “I thought I was going to be a bum the rest of my life.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

29. “Most Young Kings Get Their Heads Cut Off.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

More Jean-Michel Basquiat quotes

30. “Fire will attract more attention than any other cry for help.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

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31. “There are about 30 words around you all the time, like ‘thread’ or ‘exit.’” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

32. “The country makes me more paranoid, you know? I think the crazy people out there are little crazier.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

33. “Every single line means something.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

34. “[Gray] was a noise band. I played a guitar with a file and a synthesizer. I was inspired by John Cage at the time – music that isn’t really music. We were trying to be incomplete, abrasive, oddly beautiful.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

35. “I enjoy that they think I’m a bad boy. I think it’s great.” — Jean-Michel Basquiat

What does art mean to you?

People loved the intense imagery in Basquiat’s paintings. His art often consisted of fierce, abstract images with combinations of words mixed with pictures.

He focused on conflicting themes such as wealth versus poverty, inner versus outer experiences, and integration versus segregation, and created a conversation around these topics.

Tragically, Basquiat died of a drug overdose in 1988 at the age of 27. Since his death, his paintings have continued to increase in value. In 2017 an untitled Basquiat painting was sold for $110.5 million, making it one of the most expensive paintings ever sold.

Did you enjoy these Jean-Michel Basquiat quotes and sayings? Which quote was your favorite? Let us know in the comments below.

Sckylar Gibby-Brown
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