Kelvin Harrison Jr. to star in Jean-Michel Basquiat’s new biopic

Written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNN

The short life and meteoric rise of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat will once again be told on the big screen in an upcoming biopic directed by Nigerian American filmmaker Julius Onah.

Actor Kelvin Harrison Jr., star of the 2019 films “Waves” and “Luce” – of which the latter was directed by Onah – will portray the Haitian and Puerto Rican visual artist, whose pioneering career has helped define the art of the East Village of New York. scene in the 1980s. The news was announced via a website for the film, titled “Samo Lives” in reference to Basquiat’s famous graffiti tag “SAMO ©”.

In a statement from the director to the site, Onah said he had been inspired by Basquiat’s life from a young age.

“It was amazing to find someone who boldly forged their own path in a world where most of those who did not fit the profile expected of a good artist had not been able to (i.e. whites and men), “Onah wrote.

Basquiat rose to fame as Warhol’s protégé, and their deaths two years apart shook the art world. Credit: Richard Drew / AP

Alongside his peers Keith Haring and Kenny Scharf, Basquiat became synonymous with New York’s art and nightlife scene before his death at the age of 27. His complex relationship with his mentor Andy Warhol continued to fascinate the art world, with books and exhibitions dedicated to their creativity. and personal dynamics.
At 22, Basquiat participated in the prestigious Whitney Biennial and in doing so became the youngest artist to represent the United States in an international exhibition of contemporary art, according to auction house Christie’s. It continued to have a profound effect on visual culture and the art market, with immediately recognizable iconography of skulls and crowns, and vibrant neo-expressionist paintings that regularly sell for tens of millions of dollars at auctions. .
The most expensive work by Basquiat to ever auction – and also the most expensive work by an American artist – is a 1982 “Untitled” canvas which sold for $ 110.5 million in 2017. His works have been collected by celebrities such as Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz, as well as Jay-Z and Beyoncé. Last year, luxury jewelry brand Tiffany & Co. launched a campaign featuring the latter couple in front of a previously unseen painting by Basquiat, appealing to critical for the promotional context in which the work has been placed.
Since his death at age 27, Basquiat has become a favorite in the art market, with his paintings regularly selling tens of millions of dollars.

Since his death at age 27, Basquiat has become a favorite in the art market, with his paintings regularly selling tens of millions of dollars. Credit: Wiktor Szymanowicz / Barcroft Media / Getty Images

Although the life of the charismatic artist has already been adapted for film – artist and director Julian Schnabel’s 1996 take saw actor Jeffrey Wright as Basquiat, with David Bowie as Warhol – “Samo Lives” will be the first to be directed by a black filmmaker, as Onah pointed out in her statement.

Onah said he believed Basquiat’s story “hadn’t been fully told” on screen. “Never have we seen the full spectrum of Basquiat’s incredible life as a black artist and child of the immigrant African diaspora,” he said, adding that Harrison will bring “sensitivity and soul to the role” .

Kelvin Harrison Jr., pictured at the UK premiere of "Cyrano" last month, will play Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Kelvin Harrison Jr., pictured at the UK premiere of “Cyrano” last month, will play Jean-Michel Basquiat. Credit: Joe Maher / Getty Images for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures & Universal Pictures

Harrison shared the news of his casting, first revealed by Variety, on his Instagram Account next to the caption “Same ol ‘sh * t” – the origin of the nickname Basquiat SAMO.

A long-awaited new exhibition of the artist’s work is also set to open this spring. Showcasing some 200 rare works brought together by the Basquiat family, “King Pleasure” will be on display at the Starrett Lehigh Gallery in New York from April.



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