Basquiat painting fetches record $110.5M at NY auction

Yesterday (May 18), one of his paintings sold for $110.5 million and set several art world records, including for the highest-auctioned work by a USA artist.

Basquiat's vibrant, untitled 1982 portrait achieved the sixth-highest price for any work of art at auction, bearing testament to the eagerness of deep-pocketed collectors to spend freely on trophy pieces.

A section of Basquiat's untitled painting of a skull, which sold at auction for $160m.

The buyer was Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese billionaire, who purchased a Basquiat previous year for $US57.3 million.

Maezawa said he will loan the painting to museums around the world before displaying it in his hometown of Chiba, Japan.

Basquiat's "Untitled" canvas was sold Thursday at Sotheby's for $110.5 million.

Basquiat, who died in 1988 of a heroine overdose at the age of 27, was born of a Haitian father and Puerto Rican mother in NY.

"I am happy to announce that I just won this masterpiece", Maezawa said.

He later posted on Instagram that the painting made him feel "so much excitement and gratitude for my love of art", a feeling he wished to share with "as many people as possible". He died on August 12, 1988, in New York City, per the website.

The painting, described as "Raw, uncensored, and fiercely magnificent" and an "incomparable masterwork" by Sotheby's, was acquired by Jerry and Emily Spiegel for $19,000 in 1984, and the couple kept it in their private collection and never exhibited it.

Only two of the 50 works on offer went unsold on Thursday, the last night of key spring sales for powerhouses Sotheby's and rival Christie's.

Christie's sold Basquiat's "La Hara" - an acrylic and oil-stick of an angry-looking NY police officer - for $35m on Wednesday.

The auction followed Phillips evening sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art which concluded shortly before the Sotheby's event kicked off. Phillips' auction raised $110.3m (£85.5m) with all 37 lots finding buyers.

  • Zachary Reyes