Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat

The Radiant Child

  • BY Tamra Davis | IN Arts & Culture
    Premiered April 12, 2011

About the Film

Centered on a rare interview that director and friend Tamra Davis shot with Jean-Michel Basquiat more than 20 years ago, this film chronicles the meteoric rise and fall of the young artist. In the crime-ridden New York City of the 1970s, he covers the city with the graffiti tag 'SAMO.' In 1981 he puts paint on canvas for the first time, and by 1983 he is an artist with "rock star status." He achieves critical and commercial success, though he is constantly confronted by racism from his peers. MORE

In 1985, he and Andy Warhol become close friends and painting collaborators, but they part ways and Warhol dies suddenly in 1987. Basquiat's heroin addiction worsens, and he dies of an overdose in 1988 at the age of 27. The artist was 25 years old at the height of his career, and today his canvases sell for more than a million dollars.

This is a song for the genius child.
Sing it softly, for the song is wild.
Sing it softly as ever you can
Lest it get out of hand.
Nobody loves a genius child.
Can you love an eagle,
Tame or wild?
Can you love an eagle,
Wild or tame?
Can you love a monster of frightening name?
Nobody loves a genius child.
Free him – and let his soul run wild.

— Langston Hughes, ‘Genius Child’

With the intimacy only a close friend could have, Tamra Davis details the mysteries that surround this charismatic young man, an artist of enormous talent whose fortunes mirrored the roller-coaster quality of the downtown scene he seemed to embody.

Featuring interviews with Julian Schnabel, Larry Gagosian, Bruno Bischofberger, Tony Shafrazi, Fab 5 Freddy, Jeffrey Deitch, Glenn O'Brien, Maripol, Kai Eric, Nicholas Taylor, Fred Hoffmann, Michael Holman, Diego Cortez, Annina Nosei, Suzanne Mallouk, Rene Ricard, Kenny Scharf, among many others.

The Filmmaker

Tamra Davis is a film, television, and music video director. She has made music videos for bands such as N.W.A, Sonic Youth, and Hanson. Her Tone Loc video for "Wild Thing" was one of MTV's most played videos of the 1980s. Her feature film credits include Guncrazy, Billy Madison, and Half Baked with Dave Chapelle. After she directed Crossroads with Britney Spears, she temporarily retired to have children with her husband — Mike D. of the Beastie Boys. While spending much time at home and on the road with her family, she discovered a love for television and directed episodes of Grey's Anatomy, Ugly Betty, and My Name Is Earl.

Film Credits

Directed and Produced by
Tamra Davis

Produced by
David Koh
Lilly Bright
Stanley Buchthal
Alexis Manya Spraic

Executive Produced by
Maja Hoffmann

Cinematography by
Tamra Davis
David Koh
Harry Geller

Edited by
Alexis Manya Spraic

Music by
J. Ralph
Adam Horovitz
Mike Diamond

With Additional Original Music by
String Theory

In Order of Appearance
Jean-Michel Basquiat
Becky Johnston (V.O.)
Michael Holman
Glenn O’Brien
Fab 5 Freddy
Jeffrey Deitch
Erika Belle
Kai Eric
Thurston Moore
Al Diaz
Nicholas Taylor
Suzanne Mallouk
Kenny Scharf
David Bowes
Diego Cortez
Annina Nosei
Bruno Bischofberger
Rene Ricard
Herbert and Lenore Schorr
Robert Farris Thompson
Ann Temkin
Adam Lindemann
Tony Shafrazi
John Giorno
Nelson George
Stephen Torton
Julian Schnabel
Larry Gagosian
Fred Hoffman
Tamra Davis
Peter Brant
Kelle Inman
Kevin Bray

Online Editor
Mirabelle Ang

First Assistant Editors
Mirabelle Ang
Mike Flores

Assistant Editors
Elias Ressegatti
Harry Geller

Post Production Assistant
Spencer Chase

Music Supervisors
Steven Baker
Mike Diamond

Music Clearances
Jessica Dolinger

Research, Archival and Clearances
Roger Memos

Clearances and Archival
Stacy Wu
Malia Scharf
Tim Casey

Edo Bertoglio
Christina Bischofberger
Victor Bockris
Ben Buchanan
Marion Busch
Vicki Cardaro
Stephanie Chernikowski
Tseng Kwong Chi
William Claxton
Jennifer Clement
Martha Cooper
Diego Cortez
Ivan Dalla Tana
Henry Flynt
Robert Fraser
Nan Goldin
Jennifer Goode
Julia Gorton
Bobby Grossman
Michael Halsband
Lizzie Himmel
Monique Le Houeller
Kelle Inman
Lee Jaffe
Jean Kalina
Ari Marcopolis
James McGoon-Wheeler
Patrick McMullan
Helaine Messer
Annina Nosei
Glenn O’Brien
Douglas Parker
Beth Phillips-Schwab
Jerome Schlomoff
Richard Leslie Schulman
Mark Sink
Nicholas Taylor
Stephen Torton
James Van Der Zee
Tom Warren
Brian Williams (B Dub)

All Jean-Michel Basquiat Works
Copyright © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Used by Permission. Licensed by Artestar, NY.

Special Thanks
Charlie Ahearn
Gerard Basquiat
The Bowery Hotel
Dan Braun
Josh Braun
William Townsend Bright-Cole
Eli Broad
Jonathan Brown
Matthias Brunner
Maggie Bulte
Agnes Chu
Evan Cole
Simone De Pury
Matt Dike
Jenny Fritz
Trevor Groth
HD Buttercup
Phoebe Hoban
Kellie Jones
Sam Keller
Alice Koh
Linda Lichter
Arto Lindsay
Lio Malca
Marti Mattox
Michael Muller
Enrico Navarra
Erin Owens
Amos Poe
Michael Pollack
Stuart Robertson
Emily Rothschild
Franklin Sirmans
Roger Guenever Smith
Marc Spiegler
Mark Spraic
The Standard Hotel
David Stark
Lauren Taschen
Anne Tovatt

Funding provided by
LM Media GmbH

This program was produced by Curiously Bright Entertainment, LLC,
which is solely responsible for its content.

© 2010 Curiously Bright Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved.

At what point does “illegal” art, such as graffiti tagging and wheat pasting, become high art? Who gets to be the arbiter of what constitutes “outsider art”?


  • Sundance Film Festival
    Grand Jury Prize (Nominated)
At what point does “illegal” art, such as graffiti tagging and wheat pasting, become high art? Who gets to be the arbiter of what constitutes “outsider art”?