Major artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat take center stage in international investigation


In “Troubled Malaysian Investor Jho Low Sells off Masterpieces amid International Investigation,” Eileen Kinsella (Artnet News) writes about the recent investigation surrounding businessman and art collector Jho Low. In the middle of the investigation, Low has sold Diamond Dust Heads (shown above), Untitled, and Untitled (Head of Madman), all from 1982.

Malaysian businessman and former world-renowned art collector Jho Low is getting rid of a number of artworks, including major Jean-Michel Basquiat and Claude Monet paintings, as the Federal Bureau of Investigation is “actively examining his financial dealings in the US and abroad,” according to a lengthy report in the Wall Street Journal.

Up until last week, Diamond Dust Heads (1982), a painting of two drug addicts, held the record for the most expensive Basquiat work ever sold at auction. Low was the eventual buyer who helped propel the price to $48.8 million at Christie’s in May 2013, where it jumped past the $25–35 million estimate.

But, in a sign of how dire his financial situation has become, according to the report, Low sold Dustheads last month to Connecticut hedge fund manager Daniel Sundheim, in a private deal brokered by Sotheby’s, for $35 million, a steep 28 percent drop from what Low paid just over three years ago.

This move comes at a time when the Basquiat market is hotter than ever. Just last week, the artist’s Untitled (1982) canvas set a new record of $57.3 million at Christie’s “Bound to Fail” sale, which also set new auction records for Maurizio Cattelan, Paola Pivi, Neil Jenney, Rebecca Horn, and Daniel Buren, among others. [. . .]

The third work Low consigned to the contemporary London sale (February 10) was another Basquiat, this one a 1982 oilstick drawing Untitled (Head of Madman), which sold for $8.9 million. When it was previously sold at auction in November 2013, it fetched $12 million on an estimate of $7–9 million, the artnet Price Database shows. [. . .]

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