• Keith Haring's graffiti art appeared on the Berlin Wall
11 Items in this Learning Collection
Collection Object
Collection Object
Collection Object

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Thousands of dollars

Accession Number

Thousands of dollars

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Artist Nationality
American (North American)

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
graphite on paper

24 in x 18 in (60.96 cm x 45.72 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of Arthur Cohen in honor of Ben and Yetta Cohen

Label copy
Gallery Rotation Fall 2011
Jean-Michel Basquiat
United States, 1960–1988
Thousands of Dollars
Graphite on paper
Gift of Arthur Cohen in honor of Ben and Yetta Cohen, 1985/2.17
Graphite on paper
Gift of Arthur Cohen in honor of Ben and Yetta Cohen, 1985/2.18
A Lie
Colored crayon on paper
Gift of Arthur Cohen in honor of Ben and Yetta Cohen, 1985/2.19
Jean Michel Basquiat first gained attention as a graffiti artist in the late 1970s, signing his work SAMO© (short for “same old shit,” followed by the copyright symbol). Unlike the wild, colorful stylings of his contemporaries, the teenaged Basquiat tagged the walls and surfaces of New York City with such enigmatic messages as “SAMO© AS AN END TO MINDWASH RELIGION, NOWHERE POLITICS, AND BOGUS PHILOSOPHY” and “(SAMO©) A PIN DROPS LIKE A PUNGENT ODOR…” SAMO©’s writings were only occasionally accompanied by images, but they formed the foundation of Basquiat’s artistic practice, in which short fragments of text are combined with enigmatic renderings of everyday objects and symbols that function like pictographs. For Basquiat, language never performed the subsidiary role of caption or subtitle. He described the words he injected into his work as “brushstrokes,” suggesting an equivalence between textual and visual representation. In the three early drawings on view here, language is used elliptically, suggesting new relationships rather than explaining existing ones.

Subject matter
Expanding on his beginnings as a graffiti artist, this work represents several drawings Basquiat created around this time that combine text and image. Here, the image of a stack of money and a hatchet combine with the simple phrase "thousands of dollars" to confront on the essential character of this text-image pairing, a reconsidering of the core meaning of these objects.

Physical Description
This is a line drawing on white paper. There is a hatchet, an oblong box with a dark line around the middle and the words, "thousands of dollars". The drawing is signed and dated (l.r.).

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type
line drawing

Collection Area
Modern and Contemporary

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African American
Text-based Art
dollars (paper money)
graffiti artists
modern and contemporary art

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& Author Notes

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