Basquiat painting sells for $111 million, sets record

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A Sotheby’s official speaks about an untitled painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat during a media preview May 5, 2017 at Sotheby’s In New York.
The piece is one of the creations to be auctioned during the Impressionist and Modern Art evening sale May 16, 2017 in New York / AFP PHOTO / Don Emmert (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)

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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.


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