50 Jean-Michel Basquiat Quotes on Contemporary Arts

We’ve compiled a list of our favorite Jean-Michel Basquiat quotes to teach you about life, creativity, and art.

Jean-Michel Basquiat was a Haitian and Puerto Rican-born American artist. His iconic paintings, which featured various enigmatic symbols, made him one of the most famous artists of his time.

You can learn about what art is and what inspired him to pursue his passion through his quotes. Read and enjoy discovering his life and legacy!

Start reading here.

And don’t forget to check out these Pablo Picasso quotes.

Best Jean-Michel Basquiat Quotes

1. “I think there’s a lot of people that are neglected in art.”

2. “I don’t listen to what art critics say. I don’t know anybody who needs a critic to find out what art is.”

3. “If you wanna talk about influence, man, then you’ve got to realize that influence is not influence. It’s simply someone’s idea going through my new mind.”

4. “I start a picture and I finish it. I don’t think about art while I work. I try to think about life.”

5. “Graffiti has a lot of rules in it as to what you can do and what you can’t do, and I think it’s hard to make art under those conditions.”

6. “I cross out words so you will see them more; the fact that they are obscured makes you want to read them.”

7. “The more I paint the more I like everything.”

8. “The Black person is the protagonist in most of my paintings. I realized that I didn’t see many paintings with Black people in them.”

9. “I like kids’ work more than work by real artists any day.”

10. “SAMO as an end to mind wash religion, nowhere politics and bogus philosophy.”

11. “Believe it or not, I can actually draw.”

12. “Most young kings get their heads cut off.”

13. “I am not a Black artist, I am an artist.”

14. “Every single line means something.”

15. “Fire will attract more attention than any other cry for help.”

Jean-Michel Basquiat Quotes on Art, Paintings, and Passion

16. “I was trying to communicate an idea; I was trying to paint a very urban landscape. I was trying to make paintings different from the paintings that I saw a lot of at the time, which were mostly minimal, and they were highbrow and alienating, and I wanted to make very direct paintings that most people would feel the emotion behind when they saw them.”

17. “Art is how we decorate space, music is how we decorate time.”

18. “If I’m away from painting for a week, I get bored.”

19. “I like to have information rather than just have a brushstroke. Just to have these words to put in these feelings underneath.”

20. “Occasionally, when I get mad at a woman, I’ll do some great, awful painting about her.”

21. “I want to make paintings that look as if they were made by a child.”

22.“I have a painting where somebody’s holding a chicken, and underneath the chicken is somebody’s head.”

23. “For a while, I was drawing on good paper, but now I’ve gone back to the bad stuff. If you put matte medium on it, it seals up, so it doesn’t really matter.”

Jean-Michel Basquiat Quotes to Give You Insight Into His Life as an Artist

24. “At that point, an artist was somebody who could draw, but my ideas have changed since then. Now, I see an artist as something a lot broader than that.”

25. “I had some money, I made the best paintings ever. I was completely reclusive, worked a lot, took a lot of drugs. I was awful to people.”

26. “I thought I wanted to be a cartoonist when I was younger and then I changed to painting when I was about 15 or so.”

27. “I’d think about all my heroes, Charlie Parker, Jimi Hendrix—I had a romantic feeling about how these people became famous.”

28. “I was a really lousy artist as a kid. Too abstract expressionist; or I’d draw a big ram’s head, really messy.”

29. “I’m not a real person. I’m a legend.”

30. “I thought I was going to be a bum the rest of my life.”

31. “I played a guitar with a file and a synthesizer.”

32. “Since I was 17, I thought I might be a star.”

33. “I wanted to build up a name for myself.”

Interesting Jean-Michel Basquiat Quotes That Will Help You Understand His Worldview

34. “There are about 30 words around you all the time, like ‘thread’ or ‘exit.’”

35. “I had very few friends. There was nobody I could trust.”

36. “It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.”

37. “Black people are never really portrayed realistically. They’re not even portrayed in modern art.”

38. “My basic influence had probably been Peter Max.”

39. “I have done only two portraits: one of the artist Francesco Clemente and another of Andy Warhol.”

40. “Medicine men live in caves.”

Humorous Jean-Michel Basquiat Quotes

41. “I enjoy that they think I’m a bad boy. I think it’s great.”

42. “The country makes me more paranoid, you know? I think the crazy people out there are a little crazier.”

43. “Some days I can’t get an idea, and I think, ‘Man, I’m just washed up,’ but it’s just a mood.”

44. “I wanted to be a star, not a gallery mascot.”

45. “Charles Saatchi has never liked my work at all.”

More Jean-Michel Basquiat Quotes

46. “I was making art in an airplane once. I was copying some stuff out of a Roman sculpture book. This lady said, ‘Oh what are you studying?’ I said, ‘It’s a drawing.”

47. “I’d never win painting contests. I remember losing to a guy who did a perfect Spiderman.”

48. “I was inspired by John Cage at the time—music that isn’t really music. We were trying to be incomplete, abrasive, oddly beautiful.”

49. “It’s a copyright symbol, so I won’t get sued.”

50. “I haven’t decided what party in the world isn’t going to get blown up so I don’t know where to put it.”

What Did These Jean-Michel Basquiat Quotes Teach You About Greatness and Pursuing Your Passions?

Jean-Michel Basquiat was a neo-expressionist painter and cultural icon. He was also the youngest artist to have his work displayed at the Whitney Biennial in New York.

Basquiat left his family after a few years to pursue his passions and dreams. Later, he developed a drug addiction and lost control of himself. He was discovered dead as a result of a drug overdose. 

We can learn a few things from this enigmatic artist. Some of them include believing in ourselves, doing what makes us happy, and never losing our inner child. So, don’t let anything hold you back and do what makes you happy.

Which Jean-Michel Basquiat quotes are your favorites? Who’s your favorite artist? Join the discussion below.

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Karen Danao

Hi, I’m Karen, a content curator and writer for Quote Ambition; I’m also a marketing and advertising professional. Beyond the keyboard and the screen, I’m someone who’s out to enjoy every bit that life has to offer!

Poetry, philosophy, history, and movies are all topics I love writing about! However, my true passion is in traveling, photography, and finding common ground to which everyone from different cultures can relate.

With the many places I’ve been to, I found that love, inspiration, and happiness are some things that bring people together. No matter how different we are on the outside, I’m a true believer that our emotions don’t lie; if you dig deep into our psyche, we’re all the same inside.

This belief was further amplified when I joined Quote Ambition. Through the quotes I’ve read, collected, organized, and written about, I found that humans are resilient, creative, and compassionate.

We take from each others’ hearts and courage, and it’s through our individual experiences that we learn how to rise above our challenges and pain. In so many ways, Quote Ambition is a platform that allows people from all over the world to gain the inspiration they need anytime, anywhere!

You can find me on MuckRack and LinkedIn.