Basquiat sells for $110.5mn in artist’s auction record

A man looks at Jean-Michel Basquiat "La Hara" during Christie's press preview of the 20th Century Week, in New York on May 5, 2017. Christie's and Sotheby's are currently holding their Spring Auction previews. / AFP PHOTO / Jewel SAMAD / “The erroneous mention[s] appearing in the metadata of this photo by Jewel SAMAD has been modified in AFP systems in the following manner: [Jean-Michel Basquiat "La Hara"] instead of [Cy Twombly's "Leda and the Swan"]. Please immediately remove the erroneous mention[s] from all your online services and delete it (them) from your servers. If you have been authorized by AFP to distribute it (them) to third parties, please ensure that the same actions are carried out by them. Failure to promptly comply with these instructions will entail liability on your part for any continued or post notification usage. Therefore we thank you very much for all your attention and prompt action. We are sorry for the inconvenience this notification may cause and remain at your disposal for any further information you may require.”
A man looks at Jean-Michel Basquiat “La Hara” during Christie’s press preview of the 20th Century Week, in New York on May 5, 2017. /AFP/ 
NEW YORK, United States (AFP) — A 1982 untitled Basquiat sold for $110.5 million in New York on Thursday, setting a new auction record for the United States artist in Sotheby’s flagship post-war and contemporary art sale, the auction house said.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, the US wonderkid of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent, who died in 1988 of an overdose at the age of 27, has been catapulted into the rostrum of 20th century greats by the rising value of his work.

A tense bidding war lasted for around 10 minutes between a client in Sotheby’s New York showroom and another on the telephone, with the telephone buyer ultimately clinching the top bid.

The skull-like head on a giant canvas in oil-stick, acrylic and spray paint called “Untitled” was the star lot of the May auction season in New York and had been valued pre-sale in excess of $60 million.

Loud cheers and applause greeted the conclusion of the sale, which almost doubled the previous Basquiat record of $57 million, set for a self-portrait snapped up by a Japanese billionaire at Sotheby’s last year.

The canvas was last bought in 1984 at Christie’s for $19,000.

Sotheby’s auctioneer opened bids Thursday at $57 million and offered occasional moments of levity and encouragement to the bidders.

“It’s a great masterpiece at $98 million dollars,” he said to laughter in the room shortly before the bidding war concluded. The $110.5 million price tag includes the buyer’s premium.

At least 14 works from the Brooklyn-born artist were on sale at Christie’s and Sotheby’s this week.

The subject of much of his work — ordeals endured by blacks in America — is finding renewed resonance in the wake of nationwide US protests since 2014 about the shootings of unarmed black men by police.

Rival auction house Christie’s sold Basquiat’s “La Hara” — a 1981 acrylic and oil-stick of an angry-looking New York police officer — for $35 million on Wednesday, eclipsing its $22-28 million estimate.

Pablo Picasso holds the world record for the most expensive piece of art ever sold at auction. His “The Women of Algiers (Version 0)” fetched $179.4 million at Christie’s in New York in 2015.

© Agence France-Presse