Yusaku Maezawa’s Blockbuster $110.5 Million Basquiat Is Getting Its Own Brooklyn Museum Show

The record-setting Basquiat will bask in the spotlight starting at the end of the month.

Jean Michel-Basquiat, Untitled (1982). Courtesy of Sotheby's New York.
Jean Michel-Basquiat, Untitled (1982). Courtesy of Sotheby's New York.

Billionaire Japanese collector Yusaku Maezawa has revealed that the Brooklyn Museum will be the first stop on a world tour of his blockbuster Jean-Michel Basquiat painting, which he bought for $110.5 million at Sotheby’s last spring. The work will be the subject of a show titled “One Basquiat,” which will run from January 26 to March 11.

The show reflects “the many links between the artist and the borough,” according to a statement from the Brooklyn Museum. Basquiat was born at Brooklyn Hospital and was a frequent visitor to the museum as a child. His mother enrolled him as a junior member when he was six years old.

“We are extremely grateful for Mr. Maezawa’s generosity and for this tremendous opportunity to present this stunning painting in Basquiat’s hometown,” the museum’s director Anne Pasternak said in a statement. The Brooklyn Museum held a major Basquiat retrospective in 2005 and organized “Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks” in 2015. 

Loic Gouzer, deputy chairman of Post-War and Contemporary at Christie’s, stands next to Untitled by Jean-Michel Basquiat at the auction house. Courtesy of KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images)

Untitled (1982)—a painting of one of the artist’s signature crowned heads against a vibrant blue background—smashed the artist’s previous auction record of $57.3 million in May. (That work, sold at Christie’s in May 2016, was also purchased by Maezawa.) After its global tour, the vivid painting is destined for a museum Maezawa is building in his hometown of Chiba, Japan.

“I am thrilled to be sending Basquiat’s masterpiece home to Brooklyn,” Maezawa said in a statement. “It is my hope that through the exhibition and extensive programming accompanying it, the young people of the borough will be inspired by their local hero just as he has inspired so many of us around the world.” (The museum plans to host a series of special school visits to the exhibition.)

“In the single decade of Basquiat’s artistic career, he went from spray-painting witty, cryptic aphorisms on the street to becoming an international art star whose paintings were highly coveted by collectors,” says the curator Eugenie Tsai, who is organizing the presentation. “The simplicity of Untitled’s composition and the raw energy of the brushwork and drawn lines create an iconic painting that represents Basquiat at his artistic height.”

The Basquiat show is the prelude to a series of forthcoming exhibitions at the Brooklyn Museum that focus on a single work of art from its collection.

Before Maezawa shipped the painting off to Brooklyn, he proudly showed off his purchase on Instagram, and even celebrated his birthday with a custom cake featuring a frosted “replica” of the work. He announced the Brooklyn Museum show on Instagram this morning.

42nd #JeanMichelBasquiat #tissue @tissue_cake

A post shared by Yusaku Maezawa (@yusaku2020) on

In an interview with the New York Times soon after his record Basquiat purchase, Maezawa said: “I decided to go for it.” He described how, as the bidding flew past $60 million, he gained confidence about the importance and rarity of the work.

Maezawa, 42, is the founder of the Contemporary Art Foundation and Japan’s largest online fashion mall, Zozotown. He quickly made a name for himself on the auction circuit during the 2016 spring season, when he spent $81 million on five works in a single night (including the $57 million Basquiat). According to Forbes, Maezawa has a net worth of $3.1 billion.


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