‘$22,486.40 Per Square Inch’: A Stunned Art World Reacts to Basquiat’s Epic Auction Record

Not all art observers were equally excited about the $110.5 million sale.

Yusaku Maezawa gazes adoringly at his new artwork. Image via Instagram.
Yusaku Maezawa with Basquiat's Untitled (1982). Image via Instagram.

Thursday evening’s Contemporary auction at Sotheby’s exceeded all expectations as Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled shattered world-records, sailing past its high-estimate of $60 million to sell for $110.5 million. A 10-minute bidding war between Maezawa and dealer Nicholas Maclean ended with raucous applause and whooping from the crowd.

Yusaka Maezawa, the 41-year-old billionaire who snagged the painting took to instagram to share his good news, eliciting more than 11,000 likes. Comments flooded social media platforms, with reactions running the gamut from elation to disgust, and most settling somewhere around incredulous.

Speaking to the NY Times after the sale, contemporary artist Adam Pendleton was excited that an African American artist was getting his due, saying that black artists “were when Basquiat picked up his brush in the 1980s, and they certainly are today.”

Graffiti great Fab 5 Freddy offered some context:

But mainly, of course, it was the money that attracted all the commentary from art observers:


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