I had completely forgotten that I attended the gallery where Andy Warhol and Jean-Michele Basquiat had their shown. It wasn’t until I saw the poster in the show The Collaboration by Anthony McCarten, that I realized I had been there. Basquiat actually did a well-known portrait of a man I lived with while in Bequia. I remember when Basquiat died of a heroin overdose in 1988 at the age of 27 and Michael Stewart was murdered in the East Village. Back then heroin was rampant, as were overdoses and death.
Paul Bettany, as Warhol, and Jeremy Pope, as Basquiat, channel these two men to perfection. They bring a sensitivity, a shared genius, empathy, madness and heart, to men who many have a pre-existing notion of. Both are giving outstanding performances. Their relationship feels real, with the ups and downs of dysfunctional insecurities.
Both men came from different work ethics and perspectives. Warhol started the Pop Art movement. To Warhol, “Art was anything you can get away with.” He was known for his celebrity and his celebrity friends, but his love was documenting in film. He exploited commercialism stating, “You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.” Warhol was deeply interested in the concept of time and death, as was Basquiat, but in a much different way.
Basquiat was a neo-expressionist who wanted fame and believed art had to come from deep within your psyche. At 22, he was the youngest artist to exhibit at the Whitney Biennial. Before that he was known for tagging SAOS around the East Village. The more fame, the more recognition, the more drugs, the more sex, the more everything.
The Collaboration shows how Warhol and Basquiat are put together by art agent Bruno Bischofberger (perfectly played by Erik Jensen). Bischofberger lies, telling each it is the other who desires the collaboration, but the truth is both need this — Warhol to become relevant again and Basquiat to launch into the celebrity world in the 80s. The two become close friends and a major part of the downtown scene. When Michael Stewart is beat up, we see how Basquiat’s paintings are really a way of trying to bring back the dead and how he feels lost in an almost predominately white world.
Playing one of Basquiat’s girlfriends Maya, Krysta Rodriguez is highly underused.
Directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah, Act 1 moves slowly, but Act 2 packs a punch and delivers by the end.
McCarten, uses his play to get out his views on artistic freedom, money vs art, politically correctness along with racial undertones, but he also brings back an era when drugs, sex and art were rampant. These are conversations we need to have and The Collaboration does it well.
The Collaboration: Manhattan Theatre Club at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, 261 West 47th St. Until February 5th.
Ahead of the Broadway Opening of Lempicka The Longacre Theatre Is Showcasing Art Work By Tamara de Lempicka
The Longacre Theatre (220 W 48th St.), soon-to-be home of the sweeping new musical, Lempicka, is showcasing a curated selection of renowned artist Tamara de Lempicka’s most famous works. Eschewing traditional theatrical front-of-house advertising, the Longacre’s façade now boasts prints, creating a museum-quality exhibition right in the heart of Times Square. The musical opens on Broadway on April 14, 2024 at the same venue.
The Longacre’s outdoor exhibition includes works of Self Portrait (Tamara in a Green Bugatti) (1929), Young Girl in Green (1927), Nu Adossé I (1925), The Red Tunic (1927), The Blue Scarf (1930), The Green Turban (1930), Portrait of Marjorie Ferry (1932), Portrait of Ira P. (1930), Portrait of Romana de la Salle (1928), and Adam and Eve (1932).
Starring Eden Espinosa and directed by Tony Award winner Rachel Chavkin, Lempicka features book, lyrics, and original concept by Carson Kreitzer, book and music by Matt Gould, and choreography by Raja Feather Kelly.
Spanning decades of political and personal turmoil and told through a thrilling, pop-infused score, Lempicka boldly explores the contradictions of a world in crisis, a woman ahead of her era, and an artist whose time has finally come.
Young Girl in Green painted by Tamara de Lempicka (1927). Oil on plywood.