2010 April 28

Radiant Children

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Veronica Webb, Chris Rock, and Rachel Roy Veronica Webb, Chris Rock, and Rachel Roy
J.T. White/
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(NEW YORK) “It’s fine, I'll sit on the stairs." "It's every man for himself!" Pandemonium for a fashion fête, oui--but what would you expect with such unlikely stars as Chris Rock in attendance? The occasion? Tuesday night's The Nowness-sponsored screening of Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child, and the MoMA's screening room was filled to the brim (even with unlucky latecomers stuck outside and a few chicsters left standing in the back of the theater--darling in the 5-inch heels, we feel for vous!). Luckily, the film itself—attended by the likes of Alicia Keys, Lily Donaldson, Annie Leibovitz, and Julian Schnabel—was worth the couple hours of discomfort.

“Thank you for braving the crazy door scene,” said director Tamra Davis. "It shows me just how much everyone loves Jean-Michel and his work!” The film itself was made up of interviews by the likes of Jeffrey Deitch, Glenn O’Brien, Thurston Moore and more along with an interview with Basquiat that Davis shot over 20 years ago. “I shot it on this huge camera,” she reminisced. “We went back to the original VHS tape. Everyone thought the tape would have just disintegrated, but we popped it in and it was perfect! In a sense, I made the film almost like a love letter to him.” Sure enough, the director’s close relationship with Jean-Michel made for a moving film that followed the meteoric rise (a bit of trivia: Basquiat once walked in a Comme des Garçons show!) and eventual fall of the young artist, who died when he was only 27.

“What a miracle that this footage exists,” said Deitch post-screening during a Q&A session with Davis, Kenny Scharf, and Fab Five Freddy, a good friend of Basquiat’s and a major player in the ‘70s and ‘80s art scene. “It's just mesmerizing to listen to him talk,” said Scharf. Also mesmerized? The audience, with both Keys and Rock asking questions during the Q&A. His query for Davis? “What are the similarities between Jean-Michel and Dave Chapelle?” (He also heckled a fellow question-asker, interrupting the long-winded Q about Basquiat’s death with: “Long questions kill people too!”) After the Q&A, the crowds decamped to the Boom Boom Room, where Shepherd Fairey played DJ, connected-at-the-hip duo Veronica Webb and Rachel Roy cozied up to Rock, and everyone from Hope Atherton to Waris Ahluwalia cocktailed until the wee hours. It may not be the Mudd Club, but ça va

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