Twenty-three years after his death, Basquiat remains culturally salient, not only for his art but for his persona and visual aesthetic. After all, he is the guy who painted in Armani suits. These days, his visual legacy may be as important as his contributions to fine art. So much of Basquiat’s involvement with the art world is framed within the context of his public reception. He was their “noble savage” — the untrained, uncouth native artist, an urban black male who approached art intuitively, going against the Western canons and traditions. This relation appears in his rough-and-ready approach to painting, his juxtaposition of African bushmen art with text from Gray’s Anatomy, and his graffiti-centric themes and painting style. But the image most readily available for dissection by the mainstream was his own aesthetic. To the world his art was prefaced by his style, a black man with the hair and wardrobe of a savage, engaging in the world of the artistic elite.
With this in mind, it makes sense that Basquiat’s aesthetic seems to be shaping the grooming choices of the U.S.’s artsy, urban black males.