• James Rutherford

'Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child': A Vibrant Portraiture of the Renowned Artist's Life


Movie poster for the documentary Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child from filmmaker Tamra Davis

"Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child" (2010) is a vibrant and introspective documentary that explores the life of famed neo expressionist artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. Centered around a rare interview with filmmaker Tamra Davis in 1985, the film provides highly insightful perspective on Basquiat's meteoric rise and the burdens of phenomenal success he bore at such a young age.


First gaining notoriety as a New York City-based graffiti artist in the late 1970s under the moniker "Samo", Basquiat would later translate his work to canvas in the form of "suggestive dichotomies" that contrasted cultural differences, drawing the attention of the art world elite. Aligning himself with Andy Warhol and quickly launched into international stardom, Basquiat nevertheless struggled throughout his life with depression and addiction—the latter ultimately leading to his tragic death at the age of just 27.


Directed by film and music video director Davis, "The Radiant Child" benefits enormously from her intimate conversation with the charismatic phenom alongside interviews with numerous art world luminaries who hold Basquiat's work and legacy so dear. Highly compassionate and genuinely wistful in its delivery, the film explores Basquiat as both artist and human being, delving into the mystique he holds to this day amongst his many devotees. Indeed, his own words and personal reflections only strengthen his allure, elevating the film to a realm of world class storytelling entirely worthy of its extraordinary subject.

 

View the trailer: