Broadway Bound: Musical About Legendary Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat in Development


JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT (1960-1988) is Broadway bound. A musical about the storied artist’s life is in the works, composed by Jon Batiste, the bandleader and musical director of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on CBS. The project is produced by Alan D. Marks and Barbara Marks. Tony winner John Doyle (“The Color Purple”) has been tapped to direct and Batiste is writing the music and lyrics. (Batiste talks about the forthcoming musical in the video below.)

According to Deadline, the team has the cooperation of the Basquiat Estate and has secured rights to the artist’s artwork and access to his archives. Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Basquiat, the artist’s sisters blessed the project.

In a statement, they said: “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.”

“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.” — Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Basquiat

BROOKLYN-BORN BASQUIAT was a graffiti artist before he transitioned to the downtown New York art scene, where graphic images, symbols and motifs, and language continued to define his work. A mix of figuration and abstraction, his works reference jazz and sports legends and are full of social commentary, both visual and text-based, about race, class and power structures.

Basquiat died young at age 27 from a drug overdose in 1988. In the 30 years hence, he remains a significant figure in the art world. Exhibitions are regularly mounted about his life and work; there are plenty of books on Basquiat, many published in the past few years; and his artwork dominates the auction scene.


Sotheby’s New York, May 18, 2017 – Lot 24: JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT (1960-1988), “Untitled,” 1982 (acrylic, spray paint and oilstick on canvas, 72 1/8 x 68 1/8 inches). | Bids began at $57 million. Sold for $110,487,500 (including fees) RECORD


He was the No. 1 American artist at auction in 2016, in terms of accumulated sales by volume reaching $172 million. In May 2017, an untitled 1982 skull painting sold at Sotheby’s for $110.5 million a new benchmark for the artist, nearly twice his previous record. Baquiat’s work is the most expensive by a black artist, living or dead.

On Oct. 3, a career-spanning Basquiat exhibition opens at the Louis Vuitton Foundation in Paris, featuring 120 works from 1980-1988. The documentary “Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat” was released in 2017 and will be screened Oct. 26 at the upcoming Smithsonian African American Film Festival in Washington, D.C.

BATISTE WAS BORN in Louisiana and comes from a family of musicians. A singer, instrumentalist and composer, he works across genres, from jazz and blues, pop and R&B, to funk and hip hop. His band, Stay Human, is the house band on the Late Show. He adapted the name of his new album “Hollywood Africans” from the title of a 1983 Basquiat painting.

He talked about Basquiat, “Hollywood Africans,” and the Broadway musical a few days ago on the Breakfast Club, the Power 105.1 radio show.

“I’ve been influenced by Basquiat and also just the energy of what he did in the world to kind of like bridge these gaps. His father’s Haitian, mother’s Puerto Rican, so I feel a kinship to the New Orleans culture but he also came to New York and like brought that into the art, brought the city into the art, punk, new wave, early hip hop,” Batiste said. “I mean it’s crazy and that to be on Broadway and then for me to write that. It’s like man… It’s an amazing opportunity.” CT


TOP IMAGE: Artist Jean-Michel paints in 1983 in St. Moritz, Switzerland. | Photo by Lee Jaffe/Getty Images


READ MORE about Jon Batiste on his website


Forthcoming in November, “Jean-Michel Basquiat XXL” is formidable 500-page volume featuring the artist’s “most seminal” paintings, drawings, and notebook sketches. “Basquiat: Boom for Real” documents a 2017 survey exhibition of the same name. A pair of volumes accompanied the exhibition “Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks,” the first-ever survey of the rarely seen notebooks of Jean-Michel Basquiat, which featured handwritten, doodles, notes, and poems. Also titled “Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks,” the catalog documents the traveling exhibition, while “The Notebooks” offers a facsimile edition of the words and images the artist jotted down, reproducing for the first time pages from eight of his rarely seen notebooks. “Jean-Michel Basquiat: Words Are All We Have” considers the role of language in the artist’s work.


Jon Batiste talks about Jean-Michel Basquiat (at 17:15 and 34:04) on the Breakfast Club radio show, Power 105.1 FM | Video by Breakfast Club Power 105.1 FM


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