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Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  865 ratings  ·  77 reviews
Painter Jean-Michel Basquiat was the Jimi Hendrix of the art world: in less than a decade he went from being a teenage graffiti writer to an international art star; he was dead of a drug overdose at age twenty-seven. Phoebe Hoban's Basquiat, the first biography of this charismatic figure, charts the trajectory from the artist's troubled childhood to his volatile passage ...more
Paperback, Revised, 393 pages
Published October 19th 2004 by Penguin Books (first published 1997)
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Joseph Spuckler
Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art by Phoebe Hoban is the biography of the graffiti and studio artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Hoban is a New York-based journalist. She began her journalistic career at Newsweek International, writing about new technology. In 1984, she began writing a technology column for New York Magazine. She is best known for her biographies of Alice Neel and Basquiat.

Basquiat began as half the SAMO team that spread graffiti and messages throughout New York City. Just a few years
I bought a lovely, cheap glazed bowl at a college art sale in the 1980s. The artist was pointed out to me and he was a black-haired Adonis. This was the '80s, remember, the "greed is good" era, and I was slightly a yuppie. I did the math. Talent plus looks equals big money when this guy goes to New York and becomes famous and I have a piece of art I can sell and retire on. It was crass, but it was the zeitgeist.

It didn't happen. The art bubble burst in the late '80s. The guy never became famous.
May 21, 2009 rated it liked it
Well. I actually liked this book quite a bit. I should point out right away that you won't learn anything about Basquiat's work reading it, but I didn't truthfully expect to. That's not why I picked it up. The book is strictly about the artist's life and times, both of which were a hot mess. From everything recounted here, the eighties art market in New York sounds completely deranged (not that it's much different now, I suspect).
The portrait of Basquiat that emerges is not pretty, but judging
Book Haunt
Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art is an oft repetitive and scattered account of the life of the ‘80s Neo-Expressionist painter, Jean-Michel Basquiat. Basquiat was the first contemporary African American artist to become an international star. In this book, the author draws from interviews with ex-girlfriends, friends and peers of the art world.

Sweeping from Jean-Michel’s middle-class upbringing in Brooklyn, NY to the height of ‘80s decadence in Manhattan, this book is as much a portrait of the
Jul 07, 2011 rated it it was ok
Phoebe Hoban's BASQUIAT: A Quick Killing in Art is one of the few biographies of the painter whose brief career (1980-1988) coincided with the disgusting obsession with profit of the Eighties' art world. There is little here about his work itself, and in order to understand why Basquiat is so important you'll need a collection of his pictures.

The two big themes of the book are drugs and lots of sex with myriad women and men. I had the impression (like many, I assume) that Basquiat's sinking into
Erica "RivaFlowz"
This was an extremely informational text. It spoke of the madness of the 80's art scene and how someone creative could be famous and so quickly thrown away. If you are looking for a book of Basquiat's obsessiveness with white's and their fascination of him, this is the text for you. If you are searching for elements of his blackness or dark and brooding past, which would immediately explain his work, you are looking for a book that is non-existent.
Jun 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
basic narrative peppered with ancedotes.
Jun 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is one of those biographies based on recounting rather than reflecting. There's almost no discussion of Basquiat's vision or technique. The biographer describes what Basquiat did on myriad occasions and quotes members of his circle extensively but the man himself is left a blank. There are almost no photographs of his work. I read it after watching a number of excellent documentaries and so it was an especially frustrating read. The one insight I did get was how troubled his home life was- ...more
Mar 26, 2010 rated it it was ok
Pros - A quick, easy somewhat interesting read. Includes a lot of interview quotes which provide first hand accounts that I haven't read before.

Cons - Scanty other research besides the interviews. Endnotes are not marked (they are only marked by page, which makes referencing difficult). A lot of writings on the general condition of the art market in the 1980s, which should already be familiar to most readers. Nothing really earth shattering about this book, except the fact that Hoban takes some
May 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I was completely blown away by this book. The details and the references that Hoban compiled over the years is nothing short of astounding, so props to her for being able to reach so many people.

I will say this: if this is your first time hearing about Basquiat and you want to learn more, do not read this book first. Even after following his legacy and art for years now (through reading interviews, excerpts from articles, etc that detail the ups and downs of his life), many of the details of his
Oct 11, 2016 rated it liked it
“A QUICK KILLING IN ART” By: Jean-Michel Basquiat

Brooklyn's finest Jean-Michel Basquiat is one of the iconic artists to come from his city Brooklyn. His graffiti work was a very legendary art work that he mastered back in his time. Basquiat is a trend setter, most of the trends you see today in the pop and art culture came from Basquiat himself. He was a very unique young man for his age and didn’t care about the negative opinion from people or credits which what made him to be great, They
GK Stritch
Oct 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
"Everything that happened in the eighties had to do with greed and speed." Mary Boone (p.251), well, maybe not everything, but apparently very much so in the art world--harsh.
Even if you lived in a cardboard box, never walked the streets of New York or stepped foot inside of a gallery, you surely heard the name Jean-Michel Basquiat. He was a young international painter mentored by Andy Warhol, known for his meteoric rise, graffiti art and signature words with a copyright symbol and crown. In less than a decade, he took over the art world and became an international artist. Unfortunately, his career ended far too soon as he died at the age of 27 years old from a drug ...more
Una Rose
Oct 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. Part art biography, part overview of the frenetic downtown art scene of the 80s, part social commentary and part hot downtown gossip, I found it to be immensely readable and interesting, especially for any lover of modern art and hip modern culture.

I knew who Jean-Michael Baquiat was as did every other hipster, art obessed student in the 1980s. As a Generation X member it was more a stroll down memory lane than anything exciting and new but the author does capture
May 03, 2016 rated it it was ok
Full marks to Phoebe Hoban for the amount of research and the number of people she interviewed for this book. I’m sure there can’t be a single person who crossed Basquiat’s path who doesn’t get at least a mention. Plenty of name-dropping for those who enjoy that sort of thing, for sure. And there’s hardly a drug deal that doesn’t get a mention either. My main impression of Basquiat is that he took drugs – not that he was an artist. Although his so-called talent is surely a matter of controversy. ...more
Dani Robinson
May 29, 2016 rated it liked it
I received a free review copy of the book through Netgalley

It's not exactly a page turner but I learned a lot of details about Basquiat's life. I will confess I didn't know much before this. I requested to review this book because I recognized Basquiat from Andy Warhol's work. Warhol is one of my favorites. on thing I learned for sure Basquiat lived and incredibly tragic life and died so young. it seems there was very little joy in his life starting at a very young age. An abusive home life,
Aug 06, 2007 rated it liked it
Gosspiy technicalites boring.Hard to keep up with pages and pages of name dropping, but at same time hard to hold back from trying to keep track of who's who. Just like being caught up in a "scene" I guess. So maybe you can call that a neat effect, if it works on you. Only 4 paragraghs out of whole book go into any actual in depth analysis of Basquiat's work. Mostly it's just details of who, when , and where so and so discovered basquait's work ,that they were floored by the art and how much ...more
Jerry Peace
Sep 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is both an exhilarating and profoundly sad book. The New York art world of the 80's-experimental, energetic, frantic even, with a synthetic skin of visual and music. Basquiat attacking his canvases, throwing symbols and words and iconic figures onto everything he could get his hands on- that part of Hoban's story is thrilling. Underpinning Basquiat's story is the ubiquitous crouch of drugs, so omnipresent that I wonder what he would have been like at forty or fifty. And overarching his ...more
Aug 09, 2016 rated it liked it
I liked this book and thought it was well researched and written. Given the subject matter, I would've expected it to be a little more editorialized and exciting, but Hoban wrote the piece in a straightforward manner. I personally would've enjoyed it more were it written with a more sensationalist tone or presented more like a novel (like one of the books I recently reviewed, Kierkegaard: A Life). I did learn many interesting tidbits that I didn't previously know, even though I've read and ...more
Apr 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
This was the first book I have actually read about Basquiat and it was first published in 1997. I have to say that while I learned more about Basquiat with this book and I was not shocked to learn of the drug abuse or the mental issues nor of the family schism frankly what disgusted me with this book in a sense was the tone. While pointing out the obvious racism and dismissiveness with which Basquiat was met with during his life and his period as one of the worlds most famous artists, the tone ...more
Dec 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
The story of a talented artist who knew how to work the art market to his advantage. The book is all about how dealers, collectors, artists, all use each other to conjure huge sums of money out of thin air, based on marketing, trends, and art fads.

The tragic part is that Basquiat was actually extremely talented. He really did have bright new ideas at the beginning of his career. But as his drug addiction consumed the remaining parts of him, his work declined, became repetitive, and formulaic,
Feb 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art, read-in-2016
Comprehensive look at Basquiat's short but very eventful life, with a broader focus on the context in which he made his work--the 80s art market, the rise of graffiti culture, the downtown NY music and art scene, etc--and that's what really kept me invested. Basquiat was an interesting, complicated guy, but I'm not especially engaged by his artwork, and he was kind of a misogynist. It's the world he moved within that really appealed to me, and the ways in which he moved through it. Hoban's book ...more
Stacey Lechner
Jan 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Thank you to Net Galley and Open Road Integrated Media for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This was an interesting look at the art world and painter Jean-Michel Basquiat in the 1980s. It was a very thorough and extensive book and for me was a little long and spent a lot of time on people who weren't as intriguing to me as Basquiat. A lot of time spent devoted to art critics and dealers and I wanted to read more about Basquiat. The author clearly knows much about her subject
Kirsten (
Outstanding. I took my time with this one and allowed myself to make many research excursions to better understand the East Village art scene of the early 80’s. His rise and self-destruction and legacy make for an interesting personal tale, but also exemplify the larger story about fame and greed and exploitation and art world trends (into the present day). On the periphery it makes an interesting study of the group of creative people who converged in the East Village in the late 70’s early 80’s ...more
Alex Flynn
May 17, 2014 rated it liked it
A good history of the 80's art scene and Basquiat's life, but it comes across very superficial. You'll learn the name of everyone he partied with, all the clubs, his girlfriends, boyfriends, dealers, crash pads and the locations of the piles of cocaine. You won't get much insight into his process or what he was trying to accomplish with his art. Or why he even gravitated toward art as an expressive medium other than it was where the money was. It was very gossipy and not what I was looking for, ...more
Jim McGrath
Mar 04, 2009 rated it it was ok
This book isn't for people looking for a serious evaluation of Basquiat's art, or even people looking for an insightful analysis of his relationship to fame. It is, on the other hand, an engaging enough (if a little too repetitive) re-telling of Basquiat's rise and fall from some of the people who were there. I'm not well-versed in the NYC art world of the 1980's, so it was a decent introduction to some of its major players. I wouldn't recommend it as a starting point for people interested in ...more
Oct 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
you read this and only wish you knew him. Fuked up guy who was super-cool, honest and passionate. I wouldn't let him get all homosexual on me but He is someone I could have spent a lot of time with had he been one of my friends. I think the tragedy of his death is ill-fated like the rest of the 27 year olds - If he was alive today - like them - he would be saying some of the greatest, most poetic and prolific things on the face of the earth. That man could have taken himself to a new hight and I ...more
Aug 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book, more than I thought I would. Tells a factual account of the life of Jean-Michel Basquiat, the Neo-expressionist painter in the '80s, starting with his troubled childhood in Brooklyn to his premature death due to a drug overdose. In addition to providing a window into one of today's most legendary and sought after contemporary (posthumous) artists, this book is fascinating in its description of the '80s art boom and description of the lower east side during that time.
Jun 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Every one
Recommended to Juan by: Sydney
Basquiat: This book is so amazing it is about an artist that had a terrible childhood witch made him the man he became. When he was a little boy he use to get molested by his fathers friend and fisicly abused by his parents constently. Basquiat lived in the streets for most of life, he did alot of drugs witch mest up his art career in a big way, his art starting gettin less inpresive and more plain. Basquiat was a great artist and he had a message in all of his paintings that he made.

Vaughnda Johnson
Mar 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
"Talk about the problems of being a successful artist in New York."
"The problems? Specifically which ones...the ones I bring upon myself, or the ones that are brought upon me?" Basquiat interview with Anthony Haden-Guest quoted in this book.

This was a quick enjoyable read about dealers, the market and a one artist in the 80s. Very interesting but not a linear biography. I preferred this to a more traditional biography anyhow.
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