Jean-Michel Basquiat Painting Worth $10 Million Stolen in Nasty Divorce Tug-of-War

The painting was found shortly after in the house of a relative.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Love Dub for A (1987) Photo: Courtesy Christie's

A painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat that is at the heart of a bitter multimillion divorce was stolen last Friday evening from an apartment in the affluent 8th arrondissement in Paris, located near the Elysee presidential palace.

The artwork, whose title hasn’t been released by police, is said to be worth $10 million according to French media. Police said there was no sign of a break-in at the victim’s apartment, who was away when the painting was seized, and who noticed the theft when she returned home in the evening.

But, according to Le Figaro, the painting was found just a few hours later in the residence of a relative of the victim. The painting was returned to the woman the following day.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat

The woman and her husband, a multi-millionaire couple whose identity hasn’t been disclosed either, are in the midst of a bitter divorce battle. The Basquiat artwork is one of the bones of contention in the proceedings, and the tenstions between the couple were eventually the hint that has led the task force, the Brigade de Répression du Banditisme, to the prompt recovery of the piece.

According to Europe 1, the woman’s husband had tried to put the work up for sale without her consent. The market for the exuberant, graffiti-inspired canvases of the legendary New York artist has been growing steadily since his untimely death in 1988.

Last week, the top lot at Sotheby’s London contemporary sale, held during Frieze Week, was Basquiat’s six-foot canvas Untitled (The Black Athlete) (1982), which sold to a phone bidder for $6.3 million, a slightly disappointing sum.


Jean-Michel Basquiat, Wine of Babylon (1984)
Photo: Wikiart

This is not the only Basquiat canvas at the core of a divorce dispute. In April, Italian film producer and former politician Vittorio Cecchi Gori accused his ex-wife, the Croatian actress and singer Rita Rusic, of stealing a Basquiat painting from their Italian home.

Cecchi Gori bought Wine of Babylon (1984) in 1988 for $330,000 from Tony Shafrazi Gallery in New York and kept the artwork in the private residence he shared with Rusic in Rome, from where it vanished in the year 2000. Rusic has denied stealing the artwork and claims to have no knowledge of the painting’s whereabouts.

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