A Japanese billionaire bought a Basquiat masterpiece for $110.5 million in New York on Thursday, setting a new auction record for the 20th century great nearly 30 years after his death, Sotheby’s said.
The 1982 “Untitled” of a skull-like head in oil-stick, acrylic and spray paint on a giant canvas was the star lot of the auction season this May, which wraps Friday with more than $1 billion in sales.
Sotheby’s said it was snapped up by the same Japanese entrepreneur, 41-year-old Yusaku Maezawa, who set the previous Jean-Michel Basquiat auction record last year, dropping $57.3 million on a self-portrait.
The $110.5 million price tag was a record for any US artist at auction and the highest at auction for a post-1980 artwork, Sotheby’s said.
“I am happy to announce that I just won this masterpiece,” Maezawa wrote on Instagram alongside a picture of himself with the picture.
“When I first encountered this painting, I was struck with so much excitement and gratitude for my love of art. I want to share that experience with as many people as possible.”
Cheers and applause greeted the sale, which almost doubled the previous Basquiat auction record of $57 million. During bidding, the auctioneer offered occasional moments of levity and encouragement.
“It’s a great masterpiece at $98 million dollars,” he said to laughter in the room. The $110.5 million price tag includes the buyer’s premium.
Basquiat, born in Brooklyn to Haitian and Puerto Rican parents died in 1988 of an overdose aged just 27 after a fleeting eight-year career.
“Untitled” provoked a tense 10-minute bidding war in the room and on the telephone, before ultimately going to Maezawa via telephone.
The canvas had been virtually unseen in public since being bought in 1984 for $19,000. It was valued pre-sale in excess of $60 million.
– ‘Pantheon of great