Jean-Michel Basquiat, Haitian-Puerto Rican “Boom for Real”

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Basquiat was a Haitian – Puerto Rican – American artist born in Brooklyn in 1960. He was the first Black international art star.

Take Your Kids to the Museum

As a child his mother often took him to the Brooklyn Museum.

Learn Another Language

Jean Michel-Basquiat in 'Boom for Real.' Courtesy of Brock Adler / Magnolia Pictures.

Jean Michel-Basquiat in ‘Boom for Real.’ Courtesy of Brock Adler / Magnolia Pictures.

Jean-Michel was a child prodigy. He read very early and everyone noticed his drawing abilities. While recovering from being hit by a car, his mother gave him a copy of the standard anatomy textbook Gray’s Anatomy. You can see the strong influence of those medical illustrations in his work.

As a pre-teen Basquiat was already fluent in French, Spanish and English. He lived for a time in Puerto Rico.


A SAMO tag in 'Boom for Real.' Courtesy of Jane Burell Yadav / Magnolia Pictures.

A SAMO tag in ‘Boom for Real.’ Courtesy of Jane Burell Yadav / Magnolia Pictures.

Basquiat was first noticed as a graffiti artist. He lived on the streets. His most famous tag was SAMO© (for same old, as in same old shit). In 1976 it started showing up all over Lower Manhattan.

The late 1970s was a time when New York City almost went broke and disco, punk, hip-hop and graffiti art exploded to life. 1977, the year of the New York City Blackout, was the bottom, or the peak, depending on how you look at things.

“The Radiant Child”

Jean-Michel Basquiat in 'Boom for Real.' Courtesy of Alexis Adler / Magnolia Pictures.

Jean-Michel Basquiat in ‘Boom for Real.’ Courtesy of Alexis Adler / Magnolia Pictures.

While still an unknown, Jean-Michel once ran into Andy Warhol in a restaurant and impressed him with his directness and his work. They would later collaborate.

Basquiat was first noticed by the art world at The Times Square Show in 1980. That got him a solo show in Italy in 1981. At the end of the year, after seeing Basquiat’s work in a group show at PS1, René Ricard published “The Radiant Child” in Artforum magazine.

In March 1982, Basquiat had his first American solo show at Annina Nosei gallery. His career blew up from there. He had another show in Italy and began working for Larry Gagosian (now the world’s most prominent art dealer) in California. Basquiat brought along his girlfriend, a young woman named Madonna.

Between 1983 and 1985, Basquiat collaborated with Andy Warhol on a series of paintings.

The 1980s were a drug-fueled time and Basquiat struggled with that. He complained that people urged him to stay clean, but loved the work he did when he was high. Basquiat died of a heroin overdose in his New York studio in 1988. He was just 27 years old.

Boom For Real

Boom For Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat is Sara Driver’s 2018 documentary about Basquiat and New York City in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

The film follows Basquiat’s life pre-fame and how New York City, the times, the people and the movements surrounding him formed the artist he became. Using never-before-seen works, writings and photographs, director Sara Driver, who was part of the New York arts scene herself, worked closely and collaboratively with friends and other artists who emerged from that period:

  • Jim Jarmusch
  • James Nares
  • Fab Five Freddy
  • Glenn O’Brien
  • Kenny Scharf
  • Lee Quinones
  • Patricia Field
  • Luc Sante

and many others.

Drawing upon their memories and anecdotes, the film also uses period film footage, music and images to visually re-recreate the era, drawing a portrait of Jean-Michel and Downtown New York City -pre AIDS, President Reagan, the real estate and art booms – before anyone was motivated by money and ambition.

The definition of fame, success and power were very different than today – to be a penniless but published poet was the height of success, until everything changed in the early 1980s. This is New York City’s story before that change.

Boom for Real is a Magnolia Pictures release.

Boom for Real Festivals

The film premiered at Toronto in 2017. It had its U.S. premiere at the 2017 New York Film Festival.

Boom For Real in NYC

Boom for Real opens at IFC Center in Manhattan’s West Village on Friday, May 11, 2018. $15

Director Sara Driver and Basquiat friend Alexis Adler will do Q&A at the Friday, May 11, 8:25 pm show.

Director Sara Driver and Basquiat friend Lee Quiñones will do Q&A at the Saturday, May 12, 8:25 pm show.

In the week of June 1 – 7, Boom for Real is now playing at IFC Center.


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