02 October 2008
Same Old SAMO
BNE's saturation stickers follow a precedent set by the "posse" campaign of Shepard Fairey, and that follows the SAMO marketing strategy of JM Basquiat.
"He dropped out of school again at 17 (after, he says, he threw a cream pie in the principal's face) and began writing poetic messages and drawing odd symbols with a friend named Al Diaz on walls around town, especially in SoHo. The messages, in Magic Marker, were vaguely anarchistic and ranged from the obvious - ''Riding around in Daddy's convertible with trust fund money''- to the ominous - ''Plush safe . . . he think.'' They signed the phrases with the tag ''SAMO'' and the copyright symbol. Basquiat explains that SAMO was meant to suggest a brand name or corporate logo; he has also said that it stood for the expresway, the graffiti captured a lot of attention. ''At that time, whenever you went to an art opening or a hot new club, SAMO had been there first,'' says Jeffrey Deitch, a critic who co-manages the international art advisory service at Citibank and was an early Basquiat champion. (Citibank advises its customers that art of quality can be considered a good investment. And, with other leading banks, it also now accepts fine art and furniture as collateral against loans.) Eventually, SAMO was unmasked. For Keith Haring, who had admired SAMO's handiwork, the realization came when he sneaked a young artist named Basquiat into the School of Visual Arts. The next day, SAMO's leavings were scrawled all over the school."
"''A patch of wall painted by SAMO, the omnipresent graffiti sloganeer, was a knockout combination of de Kooning and subway spray paint scribbles,'' wrote Deitch. That was Basquiat's first press notice. "
"No one can remember exactly when the epitaph ''SAMO is dead'' first began to appear scrawled around the Bowery and SoHo, but when Basquiat and his collaborator Diaz had a falling out, Basquiat killed off his alter ego. Diaz became involved in music, and Basquiat, though he had been the prime author of SAMO's musings, turned increasingly to making art."
February 10, 1985
New Art, New Money
By CATHLEEN McGUIGAN