Basquiat painting fetches record $110.5M at New York auction

NEW YORK — A 1982 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for a record $110.5 million at Sotheby’s auction of contemporary art Thursday night.

Sotheby’s said the sale of “Untitled” was an auction record for the artist. It also set a record price for an American artist at auction. The painting’s graffiti-like typography depicts a face in the shape of a skull.

“Tonight, Jean-Michel Basquiat entered the pantheon of artists whose works have commanded prices over $100 million, including Picasso, Giacometti, Bacon, and Warhol,” said Gregoire Billault, head of Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Department in New York.

 

The piece was purchased by noted Japanese collector and e-commerce entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa after a 10-minute bidding war that was watched by thousands live on Instagram.

“When I saw this painting, I was struck with so much excitement and gratitude for my love of art,” said Maezawa, who plans to display it in his museum in Chiba, Japan after loaning it to institutions and exhibitions around the world.

Maezawa said he hopes the piece “brings as much joy to others as it does to me.”

“Untitled” was virtually unknown before it was unveiled at Sotheby’s weeks ago. The auction house said it remained in the same private collection since it was bought at auction in 1984 for $19,000.

“We are thrilled that it was purchased by Yusaku Maezawa for his planned museum so others will have a chance to experience its magic firsthand,” said Billault.

The previous auction record for a Basquiat work was set last May when “Untitled, 1982” sold for $57.3 million, also to Maezawa.

Basquiat died of a drug overdose in 1988 at the age of 27.

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