Jean-Michel Basquiat: "Sam F"

Jean-Michel Basquiat: “Sam F”


“I don’t think about art when I’m working. I try to think about life.” —Jean-Michel Basquiat

Second Floor Gallery

Jean-Michel Basquiat was one of the most important and celebrated American painters of the 1980s. Gifted to the DMA by the late Samuel and Helga Feldman, Sam F is the first work by the iconic artist to enter the Museum’s collection. Of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent, he is known for his dense, meaning-laden text and imagery drawn from multiple sources: pop culture, music and literature, West African and Afro-American religious practices, athletics, and art history, among others.

Basquiat created Sam F during a visit to Dallas in 1985. He was invited by contemporary art consultant Marcia May and her husband Alan to attend the DMA’s opening reception for the exhibition Primitivism in 20th Century Art. The artist stayed at the May residence for several weeks and regularly visited with the Feldmans, who lived in the same apartment complex. Basquiat often painted on salvaged materials, and Sam F is painted in oil on a door from the complex.


With his keen interplay of figuration and abstraction, his use of symbols and language, and his perceptive attention to the social issues of his time—and ours — Basquiat is a central figure in the history of art in the twentieth century.

Use the interactive below to take a deeper look at Sam F


Jean-Michel Basquiat (b. 1960, Brooklyn, NY; d. 1988, New York, NY), was one of the most important and celebrated American painters of the 1980s. Basquiat gained notoriety in the late 1970s with his cryptic aphorisms and phrases, which he left on the streets and walls of Manhattan under the tagged pseudonym of SAMO. In 1981, he turned to more traditional modes of painting, working on salvaged materials, canvas, and paper to merge the graphic lexicon of graffiti with art historical conventions of portraiture and still life.

Basquiat’s life and work continues to inspire discussion, influence generations of artists and art in all its forms and make history all around the world.


Dive into this brochure from the 1993 DMA exhibition Dallas Collects Jean-Michel Basquiat and learn more about Basquiat’s background, artistic career, and 1985 visit to Dallas that resulted in the creation of Sam F.


Established in 1903, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) is among the 10 largest art museums in the country and is distinguished by its commitment to research, innovation and public engagement. At the heart of the Museum and its programs is its global collection, which encompasses more than 25,000 works and spans 5,000 years of history, representing a full range of world cultures; 78% of these works were gifted to the Museum from generous collectors in the community. The first work of Contemporary Art gifted to the Museum was Jackson Pollock’s Cathedral, gifted in 1950; it became the founding object of the Contemporary Collection.

This excerpt from an October 2020 interview with the late Helga Feldman highlights her experience meeting artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, who visited Dallas in 1985 when art dealer Marcia May and her husband Alan invited him to attend the DMA’s opening reception for the exhibition Primitivism in 20th Century Art.

Sam F is a landmark gift for the DMA. The first work of art to enter the collection by the world-renowned artist, it embodies Basquiat’s uncanny ability to meld art history, pop culture, and empathy for the human subject. This painting fills a significant gap in our collection and allows us the opportunity to share with audiences the groundbreaking contributions of Black and Latinx artists to the art world in the 1980s.

– Dr. Anna Katherine Brodbeck, Hoffman Family Senior Curator of Contemporary Art