Jay-Z recently purchased a piece of art by Swizz Beatz that portrays the image of iconic artist Jean-Michel Basquiat painted on a Mercedes-Benz hood. I understand all of the proceeds from this and a bunch of other pieces Swizz has created will be donated to a charity that benefits kids. Which is cool.
Some of the other pieces Swizz is selling also feature the likenesses of highly recognizable cultural icons, including Muhammad Ali and of course, the ever marketable Bob Marley. I grew up doing graffiti and SAMO was always one of my personal idols, long before his name became the default signifier for people looking to evoke an air of artsy counter-culture chic.
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One of Basquiat’s paintings sold earlier this week for $29 million. Back in May, one of his pieces sold for a staggering $49 Million. His work can now be found emblazoned on sneakers and t-shirts. And there’s nothing wrong with any of that. Whoever controls Basquiat’s estate should get that money. And while I can appreciate that his art is being increasingly embraced by a wider and younger audience independent of the art community, sometimes I have to wonder if everybody out there dropping his name really understands the legacy or if they just want to soak up some of that cool long associated with his brand.