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Painting by American Artist Basquiat Brings $110.5 Million at Auction

Painting by American Artist Basquiat Brings $110.5 Million at Auction

A new record for an American artist.

Jean-Michel Basquiat passed away in 1988 at the age of 27 but enjoyed a fast rise to prominence in the New York art world at an early age. He started out as a graffiti artist but his work matured rapidly as he met the right people to nurture his talent.

One of his paintings sold at auction this week for $110.5 million dollars, a record for an American artist.

The New York Times reported:

A Basquiat Sells for ‘Mind-Blowing’ $110.5 Million at Auction

Joining the rarefied $100 million-plus club in a salesroom punctuated by periodic gasps from the crowd, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s powerful 1982 painting of a skull brought $110.5 million at Sotheby’s, to become the sixth most expensive work ever sold at auction. Only 10 other works have broken the $100 million mark.

“He’s now in the same league as Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso,” said the dealer Jeffrey Deitch, an expert on Basquiat.

The sale of the painting, “Untitled,” made for a thrilling moment at Sotheby’s postwar and contemporary auction as at least four bidders on the phones and in the room sailed past the $60 million level at which the work — forged from oil stick and spray paint — had been guaranteed to sell by a third party.

Soon after the sustained applause had subsided, the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa revealed himself to be the buyer through a post on his Instagram account. “I am happy to announce that I just won this masterpiece,” he said in the post. “When I first encountered this painting, I was struck with so much excitement and gratitude for my love of art. I want to share that experience with as many people as possible.”

It was Mr. Maezawa, the 41-year-old founder of Contemporary Art Foundation, who last year set the previous auction high for Basquiat, paying $57.3 million for the artist’s large 1982 painting of a horned devil at Christie’s. Mr. Maezawa is also the founder of Japan’s large online fashion mall, Zozotown.

Here’s a short video report:

The sale caused lots of chatter on Twitter:

There is a 1996 biopic about Basquiat which is actually a very good movie. One of the best things about it is David Bowie’s portrayal of Andy Warhol who was a friend and mentor to the artist. Here’s the trailer:

Featured image via YouTube.


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“He started out as a graffiti artist but his work matured rapidly as he met the right people to nurture his talent.”

You didn’t see a need to put the words “matured” and “talent” into scare quotes?

And if these “right people” are continuing to nurture such talent, we be in big trouble.

“… his work matured rapidly…”


That’s a perfect example of Dadaism.

DINORightMarie | May 21, 2017 at 8:23 am

I am not an modern art fan in any way. I do see, as @snopercod noted, Dadaism.

It appears he was making a statement about Western society……I see the form, get the style, but still just don’t like it.

Glad someone as $110 Million to spend on his work. Hope his family/heirs (if he had any) get a slice of that, since he is gone.

    DINORightMarie in reply to DINORightMarie. | May 21, 2017 at 8:30 am

    Oh – for the want of an EDIT button! …and, the ability to post comments on this page without having to turn off AdBlocker.

    I went to “reply” to correct my typo, but the wonderful ad-loading made the page jump……so, I down-voted my own post (smh). 🙁

    *has $110 M not *as $110 M

I considered buying a Basquiat painting in 1984, for $10,000, when my wife and I saw his show at Mary Boone Gallery in New York. I didn’t. I would be worth tens of millions today. But I learned later that Ms. Boone had the habit of selling paintings and not delivering them, which means that instead of buying a Basquiat, I might have purchased a lawsuit. I have used this experience to illustrate to my children the principle that one only knows what happened, not what might have happened. An interesting sidenote is that CBS news reporter Morley Safer was at Boone’s gallery while we were there. He was openly admiring Basquiat’s work. But about twenty years later, on “60 Minutes,” he trashed Basquiat in a piece he did about contemporary art.

IMHO, “he started out as a grafitti artist”, and only got worse over time.

The Friendly Grizzly | May 21, 2017 at 1:13 pm

That thing would look great hanging anywhere. Preferably with a noose.

ugottabekiddinme | May 21, 2017 at 7:13 pm

I may not know art, but I know what I don’t like. That painting is simply fugly.

I’m taking the pictures the neighbor kids made for me years ago and putting them into frames.
Easy Street here I come!

DouglasJBender | May 22, 2017 at 12:12 pm

Good grief. That’s got to be the ugliest 100+ million dollar painting I’ve ever seen. I wouldn’t pay $10 for it.