Basquiat painting of skull sells for record $110.5 million at New York auction

Chicago Tribune

A 1982 artwork 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.

5 thoughts on “Basquiat painting of skull sells for record $110.5 million at New York auction

  1. What a joke! I wouldn’t hang that in my bird cage. You would think they could do a better job painting Hillary’s face!

  2. I am making a basquiat right now as we speak. Any offers?

    Dammit, I forgot to call my joo friend art appraiser.

    I guess I gotta get one first.

  3. They mock us with this. They think we value garbage. $110 mil, when people are suffering. This exposes any so-called sophistication the snobbish art world is supposed to have. That “sophistication” is really savagery, gloating in opulence while it ignores the real stuff of life, the needs of the people that art is commissioned to serve. Unless, of course, it wants to keep swimming in a superficial ooze and constipating stagnation.


  4. This is an example of the wealthy elite putting forth that their elitism is so absolute that they could declare a pile of steaming dog shit to be worth $110 million. And it would be. This is a good thing as it forces people to face reality. My 6 year old granddaughter with a set of finger paints could do better. I guess wealth is in the eye of the wealthy, and that’s all.

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