Basquiat Masterwork to Lead Christie’s Postwar and Contemporary May Sale

A 1981 masterwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled, from the Reiner Family Collection, will be one of the featured works on offer at the postwar and contemporary evening auction at Christie’s on May 13. The work, a large-scale acrylic and oil stick painting on canvas showing a crowned ‘king’ wielding a knife against a red and orange background covered with Basquiat’s signature scribbles and scrawled writing, has been in the same private collection since it was acquired from New York’s Annina Nosei Gallery in 1982. It is expected to bring in $20–30 million.

The year 1982 was a momentous one for the artist. Coming at the tail end of his first critical period, it was the year he transformed from a pioneer of the local underground art scene to a figure of international consequence. Just one year earlier, in March 1981, after working assiduously in the basement of Annina Nosei’s space at 100 Prince Street, he had had his first solo show with the gallery. The show was a hit and led to a series of events—including the December publication of the story “The Radiant Child” in Artforum—that catapulted the artist to his newfound position.

“She used to bring collectors down there,” Basquiat said about his studio below Annina Nosei in a 1998 article by P. Hoban, “so it wasn’t very private. I didn’t mind. I was young. It was a place to work, which I never had before.”

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