Will This Painting Break Basquiat’s $50 Million Auction Record?

Christie's is betting big on Basquiat this May.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled, 1982.
Photo: courtesy Christie's.

Tagged in excess of $40 million, an early Jean-Michel Basquiat painting measuring more than sixteen feet wide will come to auction at Christie’s New York next month at its evening sale of postwar and contemporary art.

The news is the latest in a series of announcements by the New York auction houses, meant to build anticipation before their highly-anticipated May sales. Rival auctioneer Sotheby’s recently revealed a painting by Francis Bacon, tagged at up to $30 million, and a Cy Twombly, estimated at up to $40 million, which will be included in its May 11 evening sale.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Dustheads (1982).

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Dustheads (1982).
Photo: courtesy Christie’s.

If the 1982 Basquiat work does well, it could approach the artist’s current auction record of $48.8 million for Dustheads, achieved at Christie’s New York in May 2013. Malaysian financier Jho Low was later reported to be the buyer.

Basquiat’s auction record has nearly doubled over the last three years, from $28.9 million at Christie’s London in June 2013 to the $48.8 million achieved a month later.

The painting shows “a central subject,” Christie’s notes, which “has often been identified as a self-portrait of the artist,” depicted in stark black and red and with long, sharp horns, dominating an abstract field of cream and red, with vertical slashes of green, red, orange, white and yellow.

Dating from when the artist was just 22 years old, the work was painted in Modena, Italy, and is featured on the cover of the artist’s catalogue raisonné. Also in 1982, he would have his first solo show at New York’s Annina Nosei Gallery, and made a trip to Los Angeles, where he met collectors like Eli and Edythe Broad, Douglas S. Cramer, and Stéphane Janssen. It was a banner year; he also was the youngest artist in curator Rudi Fuchs’ Documenta 7, which took place that year in Kassel.

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