What really needs to be said of legendary artist Jean-Michel Basquiat? The undoubtedly iconic artist – born to a Haitian father and a Puerto Rican mother – led an electrifying life filled with all the highs and lows of struggle and success, one that has motivated plenty of writers and filmmakers alike to capture the life and times of Basquiat. The desire to tell the Neo-Expressionist painter’s story extends far beyond books and film, with the fashion world also calling upon the Brooklyn-born artist’s legacy.
Prior to the commercial success of the then-young artist’s work, Basquiat sold postcards, along with T-shirts, and sweatshirts housing his own original designs. With 2018 marking 30 years since Basquiat’s untimely passing, New York-based apparel company Sean John pays tribute to his legacy with a limited capsule collection of 10 pieces.
Pulling directly from Basquiat’s extensive art catalogue, the collection consists of crewneck sweaters, T-shirts, and denim garments. One tee features an overall print of the late artist’s 1984 work Melting Point of Ice, along with items featuring the Neo-Expressionists name in his signature script, and playing with other symbols iconic to Basquiat’s work, such as the crown. Several pieces in the collection feature Basquiat’s dinosaur drawing originally featured in his collaborative book Life Doesn’t Frighten Me, in which his illustrations appeared beside Maya Angelou’s original poetry.
While the capsule collection persists to celebrate the legacy of this influential artist, it is the essence of Basquiat’s work – a stark contrast to the minimalism that flooded the art scene before him and his infiltration of a predominantly white art world – that remains relevant today. And though art purists might be put off by the idea of Basquiat’s work becoming contextually deprived in the transition from art to garments made available at department store, a symbiotic relationship between the art world and the fashion world has always persisted; with Basquiat’s work also having appeared on high fashion womenswear in Valentino and Alice + Olivia, or on Reebok sneakers or T-shirt brands like Eleven Paris.
With so many other in the fashion world, perhaps this collaboration between a distinctly New York City brand like Sean John makes the most sense to honor the legacy of the Brooklyn-born original graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.
The collection is now available at Macy’s and ranges between $50 and $170.