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Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure©

The exhibition at the Starrett-Lehigh building in Chelsea features more than 200 artworks and artifacts from the collection of the artist’s estate, most of which have never been seen.

The exhibition fused together all of our skill sets from story telling to immersive experiences.

Story Telling

Throughout the exhibition there are a number of interview screens where we hear from the family and close friends of Jean-Michel. The interviews were directed by Sophia Loren Heriveaux, Jean-Michel niece which gave a truly unguarded wealth bank of assets to find stories within.

The result was 14 hours and 10TB of footage to sift through to find themes and stories that offered a unique looking into the life of Jean-Michel. Early on we decided that we would break with interview convention and not cut away to film screen images or B roll to hide edit points. This created a huge challenge for us when editing these stories, but felt that it was crucial to maintain the personal connection between the view and the story teller.

These films were originally edited sat around a dining table, the transcript cut into ribbons, piecing together the stories into something that felt special before stepping into Premiere Pro to start to build them as linear sequences.

These interviews had to walk the tightrope between feeling unique & personal whilst concise enough to be enjoyable whilst stood up watching. The first drafts would often start 4 times the length of the final versions as we would step through finding what is at the heart of the story.

The colour grading and framing was also incredibly important, to break with interview convention to offer up something warmer and more nostalgic. Using a warm glow and a 4:3 crop to mimic television media of the time Jean-Michel was working.

Great Jones Street

We were entrusted to adapt some original notebook pages of Jean-Michel’s into a playful projected sequence onto the front of the Great Jones Street recreation.

We needed to maintain the layout of the original artwork with minor adjustments to help it fit the architecture of the building which it was being projected onto. Each individual character and element from the note books where isolated into individual parts before being hand animated to draw on over a set period of time. Using a physics engine, once fully established, the individual characters react to gravity and the architecture of the build tumbling away.

For us, this was a unique opportunity, with the blessing of the family to take these pieces of art and transform them into something new.

In the space it offers a subtle animation and focal point to one of the main galleries. Quietly embracing Jean-Michel’s playful side, embracing technology that was not available at the time he was creating.

Michael Todd Room

Accompanying two stand out works by Jean-Michele in the Michael Todd room stands a 14 foot high CRT style monitor wall. Comprised of 15 50” monitors, encased in a custom built piece of set works to perfectly mimic the scale and style of a CRT Monitor Wall found in the Palladium Night Club.

Running along side the development of the physical build was sourcing the materials to display on it. An exhaustive process was undertaken to find who were the underground photographers capturing the sub culture of the Palladium & Mudd Club. Most of these photographers do not work with agents or sell their images through an agency, so the personal approach had to be adopted. The processes of gathering assets took 5 months and communications with 20+ photographers and 4000 rarely seen images from the time period.

A chance sighting on YouTube also lead us to small segment of an Australian documentary looking at the technology used inside the Palladium nightclub. After hunting down the rights holder, we were able to access the original rushes after they had been digitised from tape. The rushes unearthed a vast unseen collection of footage of broadcast quality taken within the Palladium nightclub whilst in operation. We ended up licensing and using this footage within the final composition. From initially seeing the footage on YouTube, finding the rights holders, digitisation through to licensing was a 6 month process that allowed us to put some truly unique footage at the heart of this video experience.

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