A report by Claire Selvin for ArtNews.
Enrico Navarra, a prominent collector of work by Jean-Michel Basquiat, has died at age 67. The news was confirmed by Christophe Van de Weghe, who runs a namesake gallery that has sold work by Basquiat. According to Van de Weghe, Navarra had been suffering from severe lung problems for a number of years.
In 2000, Navarra and dealer Tony Shafrazi co-authored a three-volume publication focused on Basquiat. The book, which features essays by Navarra, Jean-Louis Prat, Achille Bonito Oliva, Johnny Depp, and others, is widely considered the most comprehensive catalogue of the artist’s work.
Fellow Basquiat collector and dealer Alberto Mugrabi, who was a friend of Navarra, told ARTnews that Navarra was “the most faithful, honorable, and decent man I’ve come across.” He added, “[Navarra] loved his work and he did it better than anyone else.”
Van de Weghe said that Navarra was “absolutely instrumental to the Basquiat market,” and that the collector’s book played an important role in the rise of the artist’s market. (The auction record for a work by Basquiat was set in May 2017 at Sotheby’s New York when his 1982 Untitled painting sold for $110.5 million to Yusaku Maezawa.)
Among the exhibitions that featured pieces from Navarra’s collection were a 1997 show at the Mitsukoshi Museum in Tokyo and the 2006 “Basquiat: An Anthology for Puerto Rico” at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico in Santurce. Navarra’s Basquiat holdings focused on the artist’s works on paper and spanned 1977 to 1988.
Navarra also ran his own Paris-based gallery, Galerie Enrico Navarra, located on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré and established in 1987. One of the gallery’s most notable past exhibitions was the 2002 show “Made by Chinese,” which was organized in collaboration with Hanart TZ Gallery in Hong Kong and presented work by 14 contemporary Chinese artists.
In recent years, Navarra was involved in several high-profile legal disputes. A longstanding battle between Navarra and dealer Philippe Koutouzi ended in 2018 when Paris’s High Court granted Koutouzi ownership of the copyright to works by artist T’ang Haywen.
And in 2019 Navarra sued the now defunct Marlborough Gallery in New York for $18 million, related to the work of artist Chu Teh-Chun. In the suit, Navarra alleged that Marlborough had interfered in an agreement he had with the late artist, which led to financial losses stemming from Chu’s declaration that some ceramic pieces held by Navarra were not authentic.