Jean-Michel Basquiat’s untitled painting sold for $110.5 million at an auction on Thursday. The artwork, an oilstick, acrylic and spray-painted masterpiece, is a painting of a skull, which the artist finished in 1982.
To date, it is the 6th most expensive painting sold and the priciest by an American artist. 1982 representation of a skull sold at auction for $110.5 million on Thursday — a record for an American painting and the sixth-highest auction price for any painting in world history. Picasso’s “Les Femmes d’Alger (Version O),” remains the most expensive painting ever sold. The artwork, which was painted in 1955, fetched $179.4 million in May 2015.
Basquiat’s painting sold in only 10 minutes. The buyer, a Chinese-born Japanese billionaire named Yusaku Maezawa, bid by phone. Mr. Maezawa shared a post on Instagram Thursday night saying, “When I first encountered this painting, I was struck with so much excitement and gratitude for my love of art.” He went on to say, “I want to share that experience with as many people as possible.”
Sotheby’s describes the painting as “raw, uncensored and fiercely magnificent.” They also said that this particular work of Basquiat’s was an important one for it “declared the arrival of the brilliant, then virtually unknown young artist into a world that would be forever transformed by his paintings.”
Jean-Michel Basquiat was born in Brooklyn, New York on December 22, 1960. His father, Gerard Basquiat, was of Haitian descent and was born in Port-au-Prince. His mother, Matilde, was of Puerto Rican descent but was born in Brooklyn like her son. She was the one who instilled the love for art in Jean-Michel. She would take him to museums in Manhattan and even secured a junior membership for him at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
Basquiat was a gifted child who learned how to read and write at the age of four. He displayed artistic skills early on, and with the encouragement of his mother and his teacher artist Jose Machado, he began cultivating his talent.
Basquiat’s life would, however, become tumultuous. After his parents separated in 1968, he and his sisters lived with his father. The family moved around a lot, and when he was 13, his mother was committed to an asylum and would spend in and out of institutions thereafter.
After dropping out of high school to attend a non-conventional art school, his father told him to leave the house. He would stay with friends and made money by selling t-shirts and postcards which he made himself.
Basquiat died at his studio of a heroin overdose on August 12, 1988. He was 27.
By: Katy Concepcion-Wiggins
Featured image by The New York Times