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Basquiat Adler
Photography Alexis Adler

A musical based on the life of Jean-Michel Basquiat is coming

The story of the iconic New York painter and street artist is going on Broadway

Street artist, painter, iconic New Yorker and Andy Warhol contemporary Jean-Michel Basquiat will be the subject of an upcoming musical.

The project was announced today (September 25), with the development team working closely with the late artist’s estate. They also reportedly have access to his art and personal archives. The show has Jon Batiste (The Late Show with Stephen Colbert) composing, Tony award-winning John Doyle director, and producers Barbara and Alan D. Marks.

His sisters Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Basquiat said in a joint statement: “Over the years, many people have approached us about telling our brother’s story on stage. But having discussed this project with the Marks over many months, our interest was piqued once we understood that their approach to telling our brother’s story treats his life, his art and his legacy with respect and passion. With Jon Batiste and John Doyle leading the creative team, we are thrilled with the possibilities. We cannot wait to begin the developmental process. Broadway is a new world for us, and we looking forward to sharing our brother’s life and art.”

Basquiat died age 27 in 1988, at the height of his success as a painting, graffiti-ing art supernova. His work broke boundaries for people of colour in the creative world, and his art has broken multiple auction records, with one in 2017 hitting $110.5 million. Much of his oeuvre, in a neo-expressionist style, shook the world with its stark portrayal of identity, racial injustice and pop culture.

“I want people to leave this show inspired to create. I want them to not only learn about Jean-Michel Basquiat, an innovator, but to also feel the visceral thrill of the creative process and to deepen and discover their own creativity,” the musical’s composer Batiste said. “We have an opportunity to tell a truly profound story, full of emotional highs and lows, with unbelievable art at the center. I’m honored to work with veteran storyteller John Doyle, the Marks and the Basquiat family. We are assembling a team to help craft a boundary pushing masterpiece inspired by a true American original.”

A biopic was made on his life back in 1996, with David Bowie playing Andy Warhol and Jeffrey Wright as Basquiat. Dozens of books, documentaries and tribute exhibitions have been released and shown in the decades since his death. The first large-scale UK exhibition of his work took place last year, titled Boom for Real.

A schedule for the currently untitled Broadway musical will be announced soon.