A Basquiat Painting of a Warrior Just Fetched $41.8 Million at Christie’s Hong Kong, Setting a Record for Western Art in Asia

The sale reflects a growing appetite for Western art in Asia.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Warrior(1982). Image courtesy Christie's Images Ltd. 2021.

A 1982 painting of a warrior by Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for $41.8 million at Christie’s Hong Kong on Tuesday, setting a new record for a work of Western art in Asia.

The live-streamed single-lot sale was conducted out of the Hong Kong salesroom ahead of the house’s marathon London sales of 20th century and Surrealist art. The painting hammered within estimate at HK$280 million ($36 million). The buyer’s premium buoyed the total to HK$323.6 million ($41.8 million).

At a time when Asian buyers’ appetite for Western blue-chip trophies is growing steadily, the sale exceeded the previous record for a Western artwork sold in Asia, achieved by an abstract painting by Gerhard Richter, which fetched HK$214 million ($27.7 million) at Sotheby’s last October. Last year, Christie’s noted a wide net of Asian buyers bidding on 20th century works, and set a new world record for American artist George Condo in Hong Kong in July.

Buyers competed for the Basquiat, which carried a third-party guarantee, through three specialists operating the phones from New York and Hong Kong, with the winning bid coming from Jacky Ho, the house’s evening sale head in Hong Kong, after six minutes of action.

Basquiat, who was of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent, played an important role in the 1980s scene in New York. The work sold at Christie’s is from 1982, Basquiat’s most coveted year, and depicts a full-length warrior figure, sword in hand. It last sold at Sotheby’s London in 2012 for $8.7 million. Before that, it had an active decade on the market, having traded hands three times in seven years; along the way, its price climbed some 450 percent. This latest sale marks a $30 million profit on the seller’s 2012 investment.

“Collectors are increasingly making links between traditional artists and Western art history,” Christie’s co-head of postwar and contemporary art, Cristian Albu, told Artnet News ahead of the sale. “I think it’s so important to broaden that idea of building the collection and understanding that Sanyu also gets inspired by Matisse, or that Zao Wou-Ki gets inspired by Soulages and the artists in Paris in the 1950s and 1960s.”

Hong Kong’s market has been showing signs of recovery from the impact of the pandemic. China overtook the US to become the largest auction market in the world in 2020, according to Art Basel’s Art Market Report, with the largest sector of the market by value being postwar and contemporary. Seventeen records were broken for Modern and contemporary artists at Christie’s December 2 sale in Hong Kong and New York, which marked the house’s best result in Asia yet.

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