Unfortunately for art lovers, we simply didn’t get to experience the genius of Jean-Michel Basquiat long enough. The New York City artist died at just 27 years old, and decades after his death, we’re still piecing together bits of his life and his artistic influences.
A new documentary, Boom For Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat, tracks the legendary artist’s teen years. Directed by Sara Driver, the doc tells the story of Basquiat finding his way on the gritty streets of New York City’s Lower East Side during the drug-ridden late ’70s and early ’80s, and features conversations with many of his collaborators, friends, and ex-lovers, including Fab Five Freddy, Patricia Field, and Lee Quinones. It was a time when high-rises and financial bigwigs did not dominate lower Manhattan. Instead, folks lived by the adage: “The harder you try, the luckier you get.” Young artists and poets piled into lofts that will cost you a solid $1 million today. But back then, it was a time when the Bronx was burning, and there was a sense of urgency among the city’s young people for some sort of change. And they knew they had to incite that change.
Basquiat’s art thrived during the punk scene and the early days of hip-hop and graffiti, which reflected the risk and dangers of New York City in both art and music. Incognito, he and another artist tagged buildings with “SAMO,” which stood for “same old sh*t.” The “SAMO” tag appeared near Soho because he wanted to get the attention of the art world. Using never-before-seen footage, Driver (who was also part of the New York art scene) recreates a time in the city when not only free thinkers and artists like Basquiat thrived, but art triumphed over capitalism.
Boom For Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat debuts in theaters on May 11. Until then, dive into the trailer below.