Jean-Michel Basquiat became a legendary artist on May 18th when the deceased painter’s work, “Untitled,” sold for $110.5 million at a Sotheby’s postwar and contemporary auction. The auction spanned 10 minutes as the prices soared higher and higher. This price is the highest sum ever paid at auction for an American artist, a record Andy Warhol used to hold. It is also the sixth-most expensive work ever auctioned in the world.
The new owner of the work, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, announced on Instagram that he had bought the work. The post says, “I am happy to announce that I just won this masterpiece. 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.”
Maezawa plans to place the painting in a museum in his hometown of 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,” according to a statement by Maezawa.
The buyer is a 41-year-old Japanese entrepreneur and contemporary art collector. He founded the company called Start Today and the fashion retail website, Zozotown. Maezawa also bought works by Jeff Koons and Richard Prince during the same week.
“Untitled” depicts a skull created with acrylic, spray paint and oil stick on a 72.5 by 68.5 inch canvas. According to The Los Angeles Times, the work was last bought by a private collector at auction for $19,000 in 1984 and has not been shown to the public since.
The painter died six years after creating the work in 1982 of a heroin overdose at the age of 27. He was from New York and lived with his Haitian father and Puerto Rican mother until he was banished from his household. He started his art in the streets of New York City and was a poet and painter during his lifetime. “He’s now in the same league as Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso,” said the dealer Jeffrey Deitch.