He's the kid who...used to sit on the sidewalk in Greenwich Village and paint T-shirts, and I'd give him $10 here and there...now he's on Easy Street. He's got a great loft on Christie Street. He was a middle-class Brooklyn kid–I mean, he went to college and things–and he was trying to be like that, painting in the Greenwich Village....I took a Polaroid and he went home and within two hours a painting was back, still wet of him and me together. And I mean, just getting to Christie Street must have taken an hour. He told me his assistant painted it.
Thus Andy Warhol described his first impressions of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Warhol made this portrait in the fall of 1982, when he was first formally introduced to the newly famous twenty-one-year-old painter. Warhol was one of Basquiat's heroes; the young star, in turn, represented for Warhol the creative sexual energy of the 1960s. The two prolific artists carried on an intense friendship in the mid-eighties, culminating in an artistic collaboration. Basquiat died of a drug overdose before he was twenty-eight, fulfilling his belief that "the true path to creativity is to burn out."