An edgy, new Broadway-bound musical will focus on the life and art of one of the most influential artists of the late 20th century, Jean-Michel Basquiat. Composed by Jon Batiste, the bandleader and musical director of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, the musical promises to deliver the raw grit of 1980s New York.
Producers Alan D. Marks and Barbara Marks announced the project Tuesday (Sept. 25) and set Tony winner John Doyle as the director. According to producers, the show’s development team has secured the rights to his artwork and personal archives and will work closely with the Basquiat Estate.
“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,” said Basquiat’s sisters Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Basquiat in a statement. “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’s work embodies the aspirations of young urban culture by using mixed media to create work that is as menacing as it is beautiful. His fearless use of bold colors effortlessly balance contradictory ideas such as urbanism and primitivism, menace and wit among other central themes. He often incorporated words, symbols, logos, diagrams and more into his work. The iconic artist also experimented with different mediums by creating multi panel-paintings as well as individual ones with exposed stretcher bars.
Following his death in 1988 at age 27, Basquiat’s artwork broke several records including the record for the highest price paid for any American artist’s work as well as the first work created since 1980 to be sold for $100 million.
“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,” musical and lyrical 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.”