Basquiat painting sells for HK$861.6 million at auction

A painting by late artist Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for a staggering US$110.5 million (HK$861.6 million) at a Sotheby’s auction in New York. The sale of the untitled painting set a number of records, including the highest price ever paid for a post-1980 artwork and the most expensive American artwork ever sold at auction.

Although Basquiat is lesser known than Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol, he has joined their ranks in the $100 million-plus club. Basquiat’s Untitled painting (1982) depicts a grimacing skull on canvas. It’s rich with imagery that is now synonymous with Basquiat, such as the graffiti-like typography sprawling across the canvas. The Brooklyn-born artist was 21 when he painted it, but the haunting skull foreshadowed darker things to come: just six years later, he died of a heroin overdose.

The painting was purchased by collector Yusaku Maezawa, who plans to house it in a museum in his hometown of Chiba, Japan. “When I saw this painting, I was struck with so much excitement and gratitude for my love of art,” Maezawa says. “I want to share that experience with as many people as possible around the world.” Maezawa is clearly a big fan of Basquiat, as he helped set a previous auction record for the artist in May 2016 when he purchased another untitled work for US$57.3 million.

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