Jean-Michel Basquiat, an artistic genius, a poetic creator of the most complex and epochal paintings of the 20th century is getting a new perspective. Samo Lives will celebrate the life and the career of the late artist told through the eyes of Julius Onah, who will be the first Black director telling Basquiat’s story.

Cyrano and Waves actor, Kelvin Harrison Jr. is set to play the lead as Basquiat himself. The star has already collaborated with Onah on the highly acclaimed drama Luce, which got them both nominated for the best male lead and best director, at the 2020 Film Independent Spirit Awards.

Credit: Jeff Spicer (Getty Images)

Basquiat’s rise to fame began in the late 1970s when he and Al Diaz established a graffiti duo SAMO. At a young age, he already became a household name around the world, emphasizing social problems through his art in America. His originality made him the youngest artist to exhibit at the Whitney Biennial. He was only 27 when he died of a heroin overdose in his apartment in 1988. In 2017, Untitled was sold for $110.5 million, becoming the most expensive painting by an American artist.

“When I began to learn about him from the age of 14 it was incredible to discover someone who forged their own path in a world where most who didn’t fit the expected profile of a fine artist had been unable to (ie white and male). Though I could not yet fully appreciate the enormity of what Jean-Michel’s achievements meant, I could certainly feel there was something so groundbreaking and unique about them.” Onah stated on the website for the project.

The production is set to begin in the autumn, but the release date is still unknown.


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