Jean-Michel Basquiat is the “The Radiant Child”

Director Tamra Davis speaks at Sundance - Photo by J RudolphThis is the second entry by our Sundance TwentyTen Fest writer, Joanna Rudolph.

2:08 PM MST – Park City, UT:

Director Tamra Davis uses archival footage from youtube (a sign of the times) amongst other sources and interviews with artists such as painter turn director Julien Schnabel and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore to pay tribute to her friend Jean-Michel Basquiat in the documentary “Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child.”

Not overly sentimental, “The Radiant Child” successfully chronicles the life and career of Basquiat, which significantly includes interviews with the man himself. Davis also goes one step further by turning the camera on herself, a decision she debated but ultimately went with because she wanted the film to be personal. Filmmakers are not the only artists to “turn the camera” on themselves; painters have as well in the form of self-portraits (e.g. Picasso, Rembrandt, Warhol and Schnabel). As it so happens, Warhol and Schnabel were good friends of Basquiat and their relationship with the artist is explored through Radiant Child.

The story of Basquiat (told for the big screen) is not uncharted territory. Schnabel directed a narrative film about his friend in 1996 (“Basquiat”). However, unlike Davis, he was unable to get the rights to use Basquiat’s paintings from the Basquiat estate, which is overseen by his father. As per Davis during the screening’s post Q & A, Jean-Michel gave paintings to his friends as gifts and yet his friends would profit from these gifts by selling them. This exploitation greatly upset the artist and his father. Davis was one of the few to keep her gifts, which automatically instilled trust in Basquiat’s father. It is this act that ultimately rewarded Davis with the consent to use the paintings for her docu. Meanwhile, Schnabel (who may or may not have sold his Basquiat paintings) had to resort to recreating Basquiat’s work for his 1996 film.

The review of “Basquiat” on imdb.com states that the film is “a work of art.” The same can be said of “Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child.”

Author: Mason Hayutin

Founder, Editor and contributing writer, Mr. Mason Hayutin is recognized for his depth of experience and knowledge in technology, energy economics, and the arts (fine and visual). Having worked with recognized world class artists and their estates since 1997, Mason brings a wealth of practical experiences from installations, marketing and private sales. An active business advocate, he successfully released the fine art documentary film LUBIE LOVE in 2009 ahead of the global auto crisis - in addition to maintaining his tenure as Vice President of GALLERY M INC. Hayutin holds a degree in Economics from Washington University in St. Louis. You can read his insight here at The Art Quarterly as well as in regional and national publications.

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