Wednesday evening marked the second installment of a month-long series of art-based films hosted by none other than your favorite art/design magazine Beautiful/Decay in the beautiful new Space 15Twenty. Tonight’s special was to be a real treat: Julian Schnabel’s Basquiat.
Nestled behind the Alife store and Urban Outfitters, the Space 15Twenty is an oddly homey yet subtly chic courtyard where rows of comfy lawn chairs were splayed behind a large white screen. An art and architecture bookstore sits on one side next to a restaurant that spills into the courtyard. Smells of tasty grilled food and the lingering scent of coffee beans tempt the senses. Other people were settling in around me with glasses of wine and small eats–a good idea if I hadn’t popped an Advil earlier. I could only sit dumbfounded, wondering why I wasn’t already frequenting the spot. No time to sulk; the movie was already starting.
If you don’t know the name Jean-Michel Basquiat, it’s really time to start doing your homework. Basquiat paved the way for artists like Banksy and brought a neo-expressionist art that evoked the vibrant qualities of Vincent Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso. The Brooklyn-born SAMO introduced a punk-inspired street attitude to an art that seemed to speak universally. He was a character and brand in his own right, developing a close relationship with Andy Warhol and even dating the then-unknown Madonna.
The 1996 film featured a gammut of talent, including performances from Gary Oldman, Willem Dafoe, Benicio Del Toro, Christopher Walken…and Courtney Love? Jeffrey Wright (you may know him from the latest 007 series) serves an excellent portrayal of the late artist that causes the viewer to really lean in and attempt to understand the character. One of highlights of the film was definitely David Bowie’s Andy Warhol, which had the audience chuckling at no end everytime he graced the screen with his stoic look of confusion.
Basquiat was a wonderful film, providing a fairly comprehensive story of the SAMO’s life in an equally artistic manner. I found it particularly interesting that Schnabel chose to take all deaths off-screen, showing neither Warhol or Basquiat’s demise but instead choosing to express the loss through the reactions of loved ones or through subtle forshadowing. Indeed, Basquiat’s overdosing death is represented by a short caption at the end of the film, but the scene actually ends with a shot of him walking down the street dreaming of his next adventure, in a sense immortalizing his character in a way that carries into our life today.
The movie was an excellent choice and it seemed fitting for a city where millions struggle and dream of recognition, success in the arts, and the meaning of life every single day. Thank you to Sasha and Amir from Beautiful/Decay for a more than pleasant evening in the beautiful new Space 15Twenty. You might see me again next week!