What’s The Story Behind This Photo Of Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat?

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Photo: Jean-Michel Basquiat 'Man Dies' By Mark Sink 1988
A portrait of contemporary artist Jean-Michel Basquiat taken by Denver photographer Mark Sink inside New York City's Vrej Baghoomian Gallery in 1988.

This story originally aired March 2, 2017.

Check out this 1988 photo of contemporary artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Now look again. There’s something haunting about it.

Note the words “MAN DIES” scribbled in Basquiat’s signature scrawl not far from his hollow gaze. It’s extremely powerful once you realize that Basquiat died unexpectedly not long after.

Denver photographer Mark Sink snapped this portrait during Basquiat’s show at the Vrej Baghoomian Gallery in New York City.

“It was a difficult time (for Basquiat),” Sink says. “Later on in his life, he was under great pressure by art dealers. He’s pulled in many directions and his work was becoming extremely valuable.”

A new exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver explores “Basquiat Before Basquiat.” However, Sink knew Basquiat after his rapid rise to fame. CPR News asked Sink to share photographs and memories of the superstar artist. Hear his conversation with CPR arts reporter Corey Jones today on Colorado Matters.