An expert’s guide to Jean-Michel Basquiat: four must-read books on the American artist

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The American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat led a whirlwind existence, harnessing the urgency of street art and taking the 1980s New York art world by storm before his untimely death in 1988, aged just 27. Since then, his legend has grown while prices for his work have sky rocketed. He has been the subject of several major institutional shows recently, many of which have been curated by the Basquiat expert Dieter Buchhart. The latest one, a look at Basquiat’s collaborations with Andy Warhol, opens at Paris’s Fondation Louis Vuitton this month. As well as recommending essays by the likes of Okwui Enwezor in previous catalogues he has worked on—Fondation Beyeler’s in 2010 and Fondation Louis Vuitton’s in 2018—Buchhart has selected four books for anyone who wants to learn more about Basquiat’s life and work.

Courtesy Galerie Navarro

Jean-Michel Basquiat (2010, 3rd edition) by Emmanuel Barth Enrico Navarra

“This publication comprises three volumes and offers an impressive overview of the oeuvre of Basquiat, in conjunction with important texts. It is the major reference book, as most of Basquiat’s paintings are listed and sorted by year. Thus, the artistic development can be traced in an impressive way through his paintings. An absolute must for anyone interested in Basquiat’s works.”

Courtesy Princeton University Press

Basquiat-isms (2019) by Larry Warsh

“This is a very small but important publication. Larry Warsh has taken it upon himself to distil the voices of an exciting array of visual artists and designers. Basquiat-isms contains Basquiat’s most important quotes, which reveal much about his way of seeing and thinking. A great reference book that provides an intimate and personal glimpse into the ideas of one of the leading artists of our time.”

Courtesy University of California Press

The Jean-Michel Basquiat Reader (2021) by Jordana Moore Saggese

“Jordana Moore Saggese has succeeded in bringing together interviews with Basquiat, his contemporaries and scholars; reviews of his art during and after his lifetime; and a selection of the most important critical essays on the artist’s work in this important book. The outstanding research done by Saggese gives a thorough overview of Basquiat’s working processes, his views on art and culture, and the historical and contemporary significance of his work.”

Courtesy Rizzoli International Publications

Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure © (2022) by Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux

“This catalogue was published for the major exhibition Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure © in 2022, organised by the sisters and family of Basquiat, presenting works that until then were partially not accessible to the public. It not only offers an incredible overview of the works in the exhibition, but also a very intimate insight into Basquiat, as his sisters Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux, as well as his stepmother Nora Fitzpatrick, share their memories. This is a wonderful publication, not only about the artist Basquiat, but also about his close relationship with his family and friends.”

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