Film screening: Basquiat!

Being a part of Fashion Communication and Promotion Degree, we have to watch movies related to fashion and art on regular basis or at least 2 movies in a month. My favorite city being New York City and visiting the City recently made me watch a movie about graffiti artist of New York. Movie being Basquiat. The movie was released in 1996 directed by Julian Schnabel.

Basquiat movie poster, 1996

Basquiat movie poster, 1996

After watching the movie, Basquiat, I got a better understanding about street and graffiti art, in New York City. Jean Michel Basquiat was an American artist. He began as a graffiti artist in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City in the late 1970s. In the 1980s he exhibited internationally in galleries and museums his Neo-expressionist and Primitivist paintings. The movie also tells us about Basquait’s struggle against discrimination in high art and low art, and his friendship with Andy Warhol. The film also highlights the issue of high art and low art in 1980s.

According to me, there is nothing such as low art and high art. Art is art. Art shapes society through audience, but what if the audience has a mindset about art? I think one cannot and one shouldn’t classify or categorize art as high art or low art. I remember one quote by John F. Kennedy, he said, “If art is to nourish the roots of our culture, society must set the artists free to follow his vision wherever it takes him.” What I grasped from this quote was that if there’s one artist who likes to make art outside museum (like graffiti art, wall painting) should be given equal status to the artist who makes art, which are in museums! One should not discriminate art by classifying them.”

There were instances where Basquait was successful, but he was plagued by self-destruction, and the belief that people didn’t accept him for who he was. The director, Julian Schnabel shows the downfall and upward swing of Basquait. Basquiat used to live in a cardboard box in a city park in New York City and took dugs with few friends. He gets his first break when he is able to sell his work to Andy Warhol. Soon, he gets an offer for start up money, a loft and promise of a show of his works at a swanky gallery. He produces some amazing pieces of art and receives many lucrative offers but soon after Warhol’s death, Basquiat is not able to handle the pressure of success.

In many ways, like the fashion industry, the art world is captivated by external and materialistic people. The movie functions how a man tragically died because of not being able to manage the pressure of success and in constant thought of people not liking him for what he was! This movie is a must watch, be it a person who is into art or not. People who are not into art, it’s an interesting introspective to the lifestyle of a particular artist.


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