Overhyped Jean-Michel Basquiat Painting Sells For $110.5m At Sotheby’s NY

A major painting by the New York artist Jean-Michel Basquiat has sold at Sotheby’s for an unprecedented $110.5m (£85.4m).This doubles the artist’s record for the most expensive price paid for his work. Auctioneer Oliver Barker opened bids last night at $57 million encouraging the potential buyers to heat up the pace. An intense bidding war lasting for 10 minutes ensued between a client in Sotheby’s New York showroom and another on the telephone, with the telephone bidder securing the work. Loud cheers and applause broke out following the drop of the hammer. 

“This masterpiece by the 21-year-old Basquiat inspires our future generations.” – Yusaku Maezawa Collector

The untitled painting depicting a human skull was executed in oil stick, acrylic and spray paint. This now becomes the most expensive work of art by any US artist. It is also the highest price paid for a work by a black artist or for a work of art created after 1980.

The painting was bought by the Japanese collector Yusaku Maezawa, a 41-year-old fashion entrepreneur who plans to set up a museum in his hometown of Chiba. Mr Maezawa last year set the previous record for a Basquiat piece when he paid $57.3m for a painting of a horned devil. Art dealer Nicholas Maclean, a co-founder of the New York- and London-based gallery Eykyn Maclean was clocked as the underbidder.

It takes two to tango in the fragile art of auction bidding and this is yet more proof of an overheated art market driven by collectors with more money than sense. There is no doubt that this is a great work of art by an important artist but the price is another nail in the coffin for an industry that is fueled by hype and manipulation.

Jean-Michel Basquiat completed Untitled in 1982 at a time when he was virtually unknown to the art world. It was exhibited only once in a small group show called ‘Fast’ at the Alexander Milliken Gallery, in New York, from June to July of that year. The painting was sold by Lise Spiegel Wilks, the daughter of real-estate magnate Jerry Spiegel and his wife Emily, the original buyer. It was purchased in 1984 for just $19,000.

Jean-Michel Basquiat was born in New York City in 1960. He died in 1988 of a heroin overdose. Basquiat was one of the most significant painters of the 20th century. He came of age in the post-punk underground art scene in Lower Manhattan in the late 1970s. By 1982, he had gained international recognition and was the youngest ever artist to participate in Documenta in Kassel.

Words: P C Robinson © Artlyst 2017 Top Photo Courtesy Sotheby’s NY Inset Photo Courtesy Instagram


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