A complicated young man, diverse in his talents and interests, Jean-Michel Basquiat was many things at once. He was a brilliant artist, an avant-garde, a politicizing and inspiring figure, but most importantly, a human who loved. He loved many things, from art to specific people, being sure to only truly open up to those he deemed intelligent. The man had a particular penchant for women and Basquiat and Madonna dated at that time. Basquiat’s love of women was readily apparent in his dealings with those around him, and his love life became at once both mysterious and popular. From attaching his romantic feelings towards other great artists to opening up and showing his human side, Basquiat was indeed an interesting human being.
Basquiat and Madonna: He had a significant relationship with The Queen of Pop
Basquiat and Madonna had both met each other in the beginning stages of both of their fames – Madonna with her debut album and Basquiat holding regular gallery shows. They fell in love and were together for some time, but this romance was not to last.
Basquiat had a drug problem around the same time. Madonna recounts this during an episode of the Howard Stern Show: “He wouldn’t stop doing heroin. He was an amazing man and deeply talented, I loved him.”
Just as passionate and emotional was Basquiat and Madonna’s breakup. When Madonna called the relationship off, Basquiat took back the paintings that he made for her and blacked over them with paint.
He was driven, but distant
An unfortunately common artistic trait nevertheless present in Basquiat as well, the artist had a tendency to neglect intimacy and human connection in favor of his work. Basquiat and Madonna love affair was no exception. Madonna recounts, on the same episode of the Howard Stern Show that she would, “remember getting up in the middle of the night and he wouldn’t be in bed lying next to me; he’d be standing, painting, at four in the morning.”
Similarly, Suzanne Mallouk, a long-time lover of Basquiat, would recount a similar narrative in her story. People to Basquiat, it seemed to Mallouk, were disposable and almost interchangeable – the artist’s attention being like a moth to a flame. She tells her friend, Jennifer Clement, in Clement’s book, Widow Basquiat:
“His other major interest was girls, women. He loved women. He loved sex. He always had a lot of women. The only time he was faithful to me was the first few months that I lived [at Basquiat’s Crosby loft]…that’s why I always had a problem knowing if I was really special to him. I still sometimes don’t know.”
Genius is eclectic
While artistic merit is no substitute for more loving, human conduct, it is clear to see that Jean-Michel Basquiat’s vision of the world was always that of an outsider looking in. He may have behaved differently than people may expect and he may have had interests and preferences that were against the norm, but this is why we like him. Basquiat has always been a destabilizing force – from his art to his personality – but this is the core quality of the man that we respect and admire.