A Japanese billionaire paid the highest price ever at auction for a painting by an American artist.
E-commerce tycoon Yusaku Maezawa bought a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat for $110.5 million. That tops the $105 million paid in 2013 for an Andy Warhol painting. The bidding for the piece sailed past the guaranteed-sale price of $60 million. The painting, called Untitled, depicts a skull drawn in a primitive, almost hastily scribbled style, done in oil stick and spray paint. For reference, the last time the Basquiat painting was sold was in 1984. The painting sold for only $19,000.
The sale of the picture at Sotheby’s in New York puts it in an elite club. Only ten other works have sold for more than $100 million dollars. Mr. Maezawa later told Sotheby’s that he bought his latest painting by the artist for a planned museum in his hometown, Chiba, Japan. “But before then I wish to loan this piece — which has been unseen by the public for more than 30 years — to institutions and exhibitions around the world,” he said in a statement. “I hope it brings as much joy to others as it does to me, and that this masterpiece by the 21-year-old Basquiat inspires our future generations.”
Basquiat’s painting set several records the night it was purchase. The highest price garnered for a work by any American artist, for a work by an African-American artist and as the first work created since 1980 to make over $100 million.
The Brooklyn-born Basquiat went from graffiti artist to an art collector darling in the span of a mere seven years. He died at 27 of a drug overdose in 1988.