NEW YORK — May 19, 2017, 1:56 AM ET

Basquiat painting fetches record $110.5M at New York auction


A 1982 artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for a record $110.5 million at Sotheby's auction of contemporary art Thursday night.

Sotheby's said the sale of "Untitled" was an auction record for the artist. It also set a record price for an American artist at auction. The painting's graffiti-like typography depicts a face in the shape of a skull.

"Tonight, Jean-Michel Basquiat entered the pantheon of artists whose works have commanded prices over $100 million, including Picasso, Giacometti, Bacon, and Warhol," said Gregoire Billault, head of Sotheby's Contemporary Art Department in New York.

The piece was purchased by noted Japanese collector and e-commerce entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa after a 10-minute bidding war that was watched by thousands live on Instagram.

"When I saw this painting, I was struck with so much excitement and gratitude for my love of art," said Maezawa, who plans to display it in his museum in Chiba, Japan after loaning it to institutions and exhibitions around the world.

Maezawa said he hopes the piece "brings as much joy to others as it does to me."

"Untitled" was virtually unknown before it was unveiled at Sotheby's weeks ago. The auction house said it remained in the same private collection since it was bought at auction in 1984 for $19,000.

"We are thrilled that it was purchased by Yusaku Maezawa for his planned museum so others will have a chance to experience its magic firsthand," said Billault.

The previous auction record for a Basquiat work was set last May when "Untitled, 1982" sold for $57.3 million, also to Maezawa.

Basquiat died of a drug overdose in 1988 at the age of 27.

News - Basquiat painting fetches record $110.5M at New York auction

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  • zaglossus

    What this says about art today and the super-wealthy doesn't speak well for humanity.

  • zaglossus

    This painting was done by a fairly unskilled, untrained artist who was a high school drop out and junkie who died of a heroin overdose in his Manhattan studio in his late 20's. He could crank paintings like this out by the dozens with little planning, sketching or aforethought. Basically it's scrawl or graffiti. Hardly great art or worth what the collector paid for it. But the so-called Art World today is marked by extreme wealth and extreme decadence like much of contemporary society.

  • George Lucas

    How does this happen? What makes this worth more than graffiti on the wall?

  • Discrimination is not a right.

    I just saw the painting. It looks like graffiti. I guess it's a masterpiece if you like graffiti art.

  • john jones

    The real question is how did this moron get 110m to pay 109,999,990 too much?

  • Molson Cree

    100+ MILLION dollars for a painting!! This, while half the worlds population can barely feed itself on a daily basis.... WAKE UP PEOPLE! This is what the disparity of wealth looks like.

  • Colinalcarz

    Nobody ever says, "I don't know what I like, but I know art." And there's a reason for that. Nobody knows art.

  • SuthrnbelleTX

    Interesting a drug addicts scribble is called art.

  • Chupacabra

    nice picture of the painting

  • Robert Holt

    So let's see, we have an idiot who pays millions and millions of dollars for paintings from someone I have never heard of and who died of an overdose of drugs at age 27. I have found it interesting how some works are titled. For instance, "Girl with Watering Can". That title somehow has an appearance of sophistication but it is just an incredibly simple description of the work.

  • Shannon

    Why? This painting looks like something my daughter did in grade school. But then again, I feel the same way about Picasso and Warhol. I will never understand the concept of abstract or contemporary art.

  • Margot

    I was surprised that Warhol was in the same group as Picasso. I guess Warhol is iconic, but Picasso, well, I could see the price reaching into the stratosphere. Iconic is one thing, but in 100 years it doesn't mean much. Picasso in 100 years, 500 years will still be brilliant.

  • Trevor Bloodworth IV

    $110.5 million for a painting? Simply preposterous. Who would pay that much for a canvas and some paint? Seriously, people have lost their minds. I would never, ever pay that much for anything, especially some painting. Thank goodness there are still clear-thinking, rational folks out there. Like me. For instance, once the bidding hit $100 million on this Basquiat, I said this is just ridiculous, and dropped out immediately.