Basquiat’s Teenaged Talent

New Doc Explores His Inspiring Youthful Years

BY: Claire Connors

Who doesn’t love a good origin story? The documentary Boom For Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat is exactly that, but rather than learning about a Marvel superhero, we’re discovering the bourgeoning days of street artist extraordinaire, Jean-Michel Basquiat. Born and self-raised in New York, the precocious 16-year-old Basquiat found solace and inspiration on the drug-fueled streets of the Lower East Side, where in the late 70s, hip hop, punk, and street art were converging.

Basquiat’s first taste of fame came with the moniker, SAMO, short for Same Old Shit. He and a friend began spray painting mysterious poetry and phrases on the readily available surfaces on the LES, like subway cars, abandoned furniture, and burnt out buildings. Like fellow street artist Keith Haring, Basquiat’s talent was soon discovered and his career took off.

In this fascinating documentary about Basquiat’s early days, we hear from his friends, supporters, and colleagues, many with 20/20 hindsight on how the young, tortured artist was destined for his untimely death by overdose at age 27. Everyone from director Jim Jarmusch (Mystery Train) to lower east side aficionado and writer Luc Sante (Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York), to Sex and The City costume designer and LES mainstay Patricia Field, weigh in on the artist’s early years.

Boom For Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat recently opened. This August marks the 30th anniversary of his death.