Christie’s New York’s sale of post-war and contemporary art raised a total of US$318.4 million, although this was near the low end of the pre-sale estimate of $285.6 million to $398.2 million. Despite this, there were several pieces that stole the show, commanding final prices far exceeding pre-sale valuations. The most impressive and expensive piece on offer proved to be a large “Untitled” canvas by Jean-Michel Basquiat, the renowned New York street artist turned contemporary art darling.
Selling for a staggering $57.3 million, the work was completed by Basquiat in 1982 during a trip to Italy. It forms part of a small group of his most coveted works, along with Boy, Profit 1 and the curiously named Dog in a Johnnypump.
To get a true sense of just what a sensational result this was, you only need to compare the size of the winning bid with the amount of money “Untitled” went for last time it was under the hammer in 2004 – a comparatively paltry US$4.5 million. This time around, bidding opened at an already impressive $24 million, eventually ending in a $1 million-increment bidding war.
The winning bid of $57.3 million was finally made by 40-year-old Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese business magnate, the founder of the Contemporary Art Foundation and proprietor of Zozotown, Japan’s largest online fashion mall. Explaining the reasons for his purchase, Maezawa said: “When I first encountered this Basquiat painting at the Christie’s New York preview, I had an immediate visceral connection to it.”