Jean-Michel Basquiat, the James Dean of contemporary painting, died in 1988 at age 28. He wasn’t just lonely and full of regrets after his close friend Andy Warhol’s death the year before but truly alone after his meteorotic rise to fame which isolated him from the ones he loved while never giving him neither the profound artistic recognition in the way he had hoped nor complete acceptance from society which after an intense moment of celebration cut him back and pushed him down. As artist Julian Schnabel puts it in the documentary,”He simply didn’t have the tools to navigate the sea of shit.”
Basquiat flew so close to the sun that he crashed and burned. Disillusioned with money and fame – the two things he had been striving for so badly when he ran away from his comfortable home in Brooklyn to live down and out in Manhattan and become an artist, he plunged a heroin needle into his body one night and was released of his turmoils for good.
Close friend Tamra Davis gallery assistant when they met and seasoned film maker by 2010 had kept footage in her drawer for over 20 years of an interview she made of the painter in a hotel room in New York. Today she has interwoven extracts of this interview, with snippets of conversations with friends, gallerists (no lesser than Larry Gagosian and Bruno Bischofsberger) and artists (such as his graffiti pals that he started out with). A quick-paced collage of images accompanied by music, voice-offs, texts and other commentaries tell Basquiat’s story in al crescendo tempo and beyond the stereotypes. It’s a very personal personal film that also shows the various creative influences and energies that flowed right through the young man’s body and onto at first city walls, then found objects like doors and windows and finally monumental canvases that now dawn the walls of the most prestigious international colllections.
The movie “Jean-Michel Basquiat. The Radiant Child”, named after an Artforum review that contributed to his success, was shown in an independent cinema in Paris’s Marais district last night and is officially released today, October 13th, 2010.
Thanks to a “wonderful coincidence” of timing (I’m quoting the Pretty Pictures production company) the musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris (the Museum of Modern Art that’s near Trocadéro in the 8th district of Paris) is opening Jean-Michel Basquiat’s retrospective this Friday, October 15th, 2010.
Serendipitious indeed. I’m going!