Record-Breaking Basquiat Painting Leads Christie’s $318 Million Contemporary Sale


This article focuses on Christie’s recent $318 million contemporary sale; what I found interesting is the fact that one of my favorites, Jean-Michel Basquiat, was the one leading in sales. His Untitled (one of his most coveted works, according to the article) was the most expensive works sold last Tuesday (to Yusaku Maezawa, founder of Contemporary Art Foundation and Japan’s largest online fashion mall, Zozotown). Here are excerpts:

Christie’s major sale of postwar and contemporary art at Rockefeller Center in New York scored $318.4 million on Tuesday evening, near the low end of the presale estimate of $285.6 million to $398.2 million. Of 60 lots on offer (one was withdrawn), 52, or 87 percent, were sold.

Even considering the addition of Loic Gouzer’s $78 million hybrid “Bound to Fail” sale on May 8, totals to date—total current Christie’s sales of about $400 million—are a fraction of what they were last year.

In comparison, last year’s “Looking Forward to the Past” sale raked in $705.9 million, followed several nights later by a dedicated Christie’s postwar and contemporary sale that was not far behind, with $658.5 million. The two-sale total amounted to a mind-boggling $1.4 billion.

Which is not to say that Christie’s didn’t have its fair share of trophy artworks tonight; it just had far fewer of them.

The most expensive lot of the night was a large Untitled canvas by Jean-Michel Basquiat, dating from 1982. The late artist executed the work during a trip to Modena, Italy. It is part of a small group he made there that are considered to be among his most coveted works, along with Profit 1 and Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump.

The final price was $57.3 million, a new record for the artist at auction, compared with an unpublished estimate “in excess of $40 million,” according to Christie’s website. It marked a substantial increase on the previous record, of $48.8 million that was set for Dustheads, also made in 1982, that was sold at Christie’s New York in May 2013. [. . .]

[Photo above: Loic Gouzer of Christie’s stands next to the artwork Untitled by Jean-Michel Basquiat. KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images.]

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