A painting by the iconic artist Jean-Michel Basquiat just broke huge records this week. His 1982 skull painting was auctioned off and sold for $110.5 million at the art dealing company, Sotheby’s. His work now ranks sixth as the most expensive piece ever sold at an auction. It also joins ten other works that have exceeded the $100 million mark for a sale. “He’s now in the same league as Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso,” Basquiat expert, Jeffrey Deitch, said.
Who’s the lucky buyer? Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa.
“I am happy to announce that I just won this masterpiece,” he said on Instagram. “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 is the founder of Contemporary Art Foundation. Last year, he paid $57.3 million for Basquiat’s 1982 painting of a horned devil. Maezawa told Sotheby’s that he hopes to use the latest Basquiet painting in a Japanese museum. “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,” he said in a statement. “I hope it brings as much joy to others as it does to me, and that this masterpiece by the 21-year-old Basquiat inspires our future generations.”
Basquiat’s work — made from oil stick and spray paint — set the record as a painting sold by an American artist, a work made by a Black artist and a work created since 1980 to make over $100 million. “It’s a really historical moment,” said Larry Warsh, a Basquiat collector. “It does cement this artist once again.” Basquiat even beat out his friend and mentor, the late Andy Warhol, whose “Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) (in 2 Parts)” sold for $105.4 million in 2013.
Basquiat passed away at 27 years old from a drug overdose on August 12, 1988.