“Jean-Michel’s crown has three peaks, for his three royal lineages: the poet, the musician, the great boxing champion. Jean measured his skill against all he deemed strong, without prejudice as to their taste or age.”
– Francesco Clemente, artist
Basquiat challenges Western histories by creating images that honour black men as kings and saints. With his signature recurring motif – the crown – the artist recognizes the majesty of his heroes: groundbreaking athletes, musicians and writers. Inspired by their accomplishments, Basquiat believed he was continuing the work of this noble lineage: he often depicts himself wearing the same crown in his self-portraits. Basquiat’s crown is a changeable symbol. It is sometimes a halo and sometimes a crown of thorns, as the artist emphasizes the martyrdom often involved with sainthood. For Basquiat, these heroes and saints are warriors – sometimes rendered triumphant, their arms raised in victory.