A Basquiat Sells for ‘Mind-Blowing’ $110.5 Million at Auction

It was Mr. Maezawa, the 41-year-old founder of Contemporary Art Foundation, who last year set the previous auction high for Basquiat, paying $57.3 million for the artist’s large 1982 painting of a horned devil at Christie’s. Mr. Maezawa is also the founder of Japan’s large online fashion mall, Zozotown.

Mr. Maezawa later told Sotheby’s that he acquired his latest painting by the artist for a planned museum in his hometown, Chiba, Japan. “But before then I wish to loan this piece — which has been unseen by the public for more than 30 years — to institutions and exhibitions around the world,” he said in a statement. “I hope it brings as much joy to others as it does to me, and that this masterpiece by the 21-year-old Basquiat inspires our future generations.”

The winning bid was taken on the phone by Yuki Terase, who oversees Japanese business development for Sotheby’s in Hong Kong, against the dealer Nicholas Maclean, who was hunched over in the room on the phone with a bidder.


Yusaku Maezawa

via Sotherby’s

Whether one active collector makes a market remains to be seen. It will take another major Basquiat to test the sustainability of this $100 million level.

In the meantime, however, Basquiat’s vibrant painting set several records Thursday night: for a work by any American artist, for a work by an African-American artist and as the first work created since 1980 to make over $100 million.

“It’s a really historical moment,” said Larry Warsh, a longtime Basquiat collector. “It does cement this artist once again.”

The Brooklyn-born Basquiat went from graffiti artist to an art collector darling in the span of a mere seven years. He died at 27 of a drug overdose in 1988….

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