Watch | 08. Feb 2022

Paint it Black

Funny enough I stumbled over the movie "Basquiat" from two different angles this week. There was an old "New York Magazine" issue I flipped through, about famous movies that took place in New York, that said Julian Schnabel´s biopic "gifts us with a vision of downtown as a modern Montmartre teeming with creativity, madness, hardship, and ambition; with people meeting and sleeping with one another, filled with envy at the lives of others, wanting better apartments, resenting jobs, taking drugs because that is what other people did and you had to do it too to be part of this great, changing" molecule."

Exactly that kind of New York that I got to know when I first came here.

I also read that feature about Christopher Walken who had one of his brilliant short appearances in the movie, finding out only then that his wife back then (and still today) is Georgina Walken who did the terrific casting, I mean: David Bowie as Warhol, Dennis Hopper as grande art dealer Bruno Bischofberger, Parker Posey as Mary Boone, Courtney Love standing in for Madonna and all the other love affairs Basquitat used to have, Tatum O´Neal standing in for all those rich-housewives-turned-loaded-art-collectors of those days, Gary Oldman as an artist based on Julian Schnabel himself - and so many more...

So I decided to watch it - for the first time, actually.

Watching the movie I found out why I always thought I do not know nothing about racism, like, I always thought, there is no difference anymore, no social gap, between black and white people. Because the young artist Jean-Michel Basquiat might mention the colour of his skin every now and then as something that sets him apart, also, the movie reflects on how he is the first ever black artist to become a world famous artist.

But: The character, the specific personality of a self centered artist, always hurt by the world, always hurting everyone around him, still loved and forgiven in the name of his talent is a universal character, without a gender, without a race. Basquiat made his short, steep way up the ladder of success and down into the darkness of a wounded sould like so many other artists we cherish.

For me Kurt Corbain or Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston or Prince, Vincent van Gogh or Jim Morrison, Georg Büchner or Sylvia Plath all belong to the same tribe.

But as much I once thought the generation before me had solved the problem of equal conditions for women so I would not have to worry - I became a feminist only years later when that turned out to be an illusion - the lie of equality between black and white people as well has obviously contiuned until today.

Even though for a moment of time Jean-Michel Basquiat made us believe otherwise.