On the 30th Anniversary of his Death, Basquiat Gets Tribute from Al Diaz on Great Jones
Yesterday (August 12) marks thirty years since Jean-Michel Basquiat died of a heroin overdose at age 27. To help pay tribute to his fallen compatriot, legendary Lower East Side street scrawler Al Diaz imparted this silhouette and message on the facade of his former studio at 57 Great Jones Street (where he was found).
The new artwork is a collaborative effort between Diaz, who co-created the SAMO tag with Basquiat in 1977, and local artist and photographer Adrian Wilson. (This is their second SAMO-related street effort this year.) The silhouette itself is based on a famous photograph of Basquiat painting the Dry Dock pool on East 10th Street, alongside lettering that reads, “I didn’t sign up to be used as a face 4 selling brand named crap!” Plus, “SAMO 4 the continually inspired & eternally inspiring.”
The collaboration is commentary on the abject commercialization of Basquiat and his posthumous legacy. For instance, the May 2017 auction at Sotheby’s of his 1982 skull painting that set a record $110.5 million price at auction.
Basquiat and Diaz coined SAMO as teenagers as shorthand for weed, “The Same Old Shit.” Both wrote suggestive political dichotomies throughout the Lower East Side between 1977 and 1980. Basquiat lived and worked at 57 Great Jones Street for five years, from 1983 until his death in 1988. The Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation installed a plaque onsite in his honor a couple years ago.