Kenny Scharf: When Worlds Collide, is a vibrant and colorful portrait of the life and work of Pop Art icon Kenny Scharf. Filmed over the course of 11 years by the artist’s daughter Malia Scharf and Max Basch, the documentary features interviews with Kenny Scharf himself, as well as Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Ed Ruscha, Dennis Hopper, Yoko Ono, Kaws, Marilyn Minter, and Jeffrey Deitch. The film offers audiences a glimpse into the artist’s inspiration for his surreal, colorful, pop-culture-inspired art, according to a press release. Kenny Scharf: When Worlds Collide opens on June 25 in select theaters and virtual cinemas nationwide.
Kenny Scharf’s career started in the late 1970s and early 1980s when he first arrived in New York City. There, he befriended artists Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The trio became inseparable with a common goal: rebelling against elitist art that dominated galleries at the time.
Decades later, Scharf has never stopped painting. His motivation behind creating art never changed: Art should be fun to make and look at. “I always felt very strongly about having fun in creating art and also in conveying that sense of fun and including the viewer in on it,” Scharf said in an interview with the Whitney Museum of American Art eight years ago. That carefree and generous spirit is what Malia Scharf and Basch wanted to showcase in their film.
In an interview with the DOC NYC 2020, Malia recalled how growing up in that world, she witnessed her father’s struggle with the “preciousness” of the art world. Scharf’s motto was, and still is, that art is for everyone. He was often caught painting on people’s jackets or cars in the street for free. Navigating the fine line of being generous and maintaining art’s value by not giving it away for free was not always easy for the artist.
“It’s his spirit. He has to be true to his spirit,” Malia said in an interview. “That’s the beauty, that’s what’s so inspiring for me as well, is the generosity, and that is just how he is. It’s easy. It comes from a true place of loving and giving his heart in that way,” she added.
Malia said they hope their film gets to be seen all over the world. “I really feel it’s an inspiring film even for these times – staying true to yourself, the environment – I feel like it brings hope,” she said in the same interview.
“Many people think I’m crazy,” Scharf is heard saying at the end of the film’s trailer. “And I think that’s ok.”