Here Are Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Most Expensive Works at Auction

'I wanted to be a star,' Basquiat once said. 'Not a gallery mascot.'

Jean-Michel Basquiat. Courtesy of Sotheby's.

The record-breaking sale of Jean-Michel Basquiat‘s Untitled for $57,285,000 at Christie’s stands out as the most memorable event at last week’s auctions. This one sweeping gesture raised the bar on Basquiat’s work and established Japanese collector Yusaku Maezawa as a taste maker to watch.

Maezawa’s interest in Basquiat is guided by a reliable upward trend in the artist’s market. Since 2012, Basquiat’s canvases (namely those painted in the early 1980s) have been steadily advancing him to the top of the auctions.

With tales of interested collectors being priced out of Basquiat’s market dating as far back as 1985, it’s little wonder that the artist continues to enjoy posthumous success. “I wanted to be a star,” Basquiat told Cathleen McGuigan in his 1985 interview for the New York Times, “not a gallery mascot.”

To contextualize the sale of Untitled, artnet News dips into the artnet Price Database and looks back at the artist’s 10 most expensive works.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (1982)Image: Courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (1982). Courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd.

1. Untitled (1982): $57,285,000
With the sale of Untitled (1982), Japanese tech powerhouse Yusaku Maezawa effectively took the artist to a new record high. Describing his interest in the painting (and the artist), the collector told artnet News: “When I encountered the [Basquiat painting] at the Christie’s New York preview, I had an immediate visceral connection to it. Generationally, I relate to Basquiat’s culture and the essence of his life story.”

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Jean-Michel Basquiat, Dustheads (1982). Courtesy of artnet Price Database.

2. Dustheads (1982): $48,843,752
Before Untitled (1982) took the throne, Dustheads reigned as the artist’s most expensive work since 2013. Dustheads, which was painted in the same year as Untitled, sold at a Christie’s evening sale, exceeding the high estimate of $35 million. According to Christie’s, the present owner acquired the piece from Tony Shafrazi, one of Basquiat’s earliest dealers.

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Jean-Michel Basquiat, The Field Next to the Other Road (1981). Courtesy of artnet Price Database.

3. The Field Next to the Other Road (1981): $37,125,000
Interest in The Field Next to the Other Road ran high in Christie’s evening sale last spring. As Brian Boucher reported in May 2015, underbidder Christophe van de Weghe, who first attempted the acquisition of the painting back in 1993, said he “failed twice.” The prevailing bidder, however, is yet to be identified.

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Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (1981). Courtesy of artnet Price Database.

4. Untitled (1981): $34,885,000
Characterized by Christie’s as a seminal painting that represents the artist’s “transition from underground street artist to art world icon,” Untitled sold at the auction house’s evening sale in the spring of 2014. Its present owner acquired the piece from the Annina Nosei Gallery, where it had been since 1982.

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Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (1982). Courtesy of artnet Price Database.

5. Untitled (1982): $29,285,000
Untitled (1982) stands supreme among Basquiat’s becrowned portraits. This iconic skeletal king, which sold well within Christie’s 2013 estimate range of $25 million–$35 million, has passed through many hands, including the Annina Nosei Gallery, the Fredrik Roos Collection, and Tony Shafrazi Gallery, among a handful of private collectors.

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Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (diptych) (1982). Courtesy of artnet Price Database.

6. Untitled (diptych) (1982): $28,928,434
Untitled (diptych) sold at a Christie’s London sale in 2013, rendering it the highest to sell at auction overseas. Standing at 6 feet (and a little over 8 feet wide), the premium paid for the large work was 18,765,876 GBP ($29 million). Notably, Annina Nosei Gallery exhibited the work in a group show in the same year it was created.

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Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (1981). Courtesy of artnet Price Database.

7. Untitled (1981): $26,402,500
Amidst enormous market success in the months leading up to the sale, Untitled (1981) was anticipated to break records at Christie’s in 2012. Needless to say, the sale lived up to its hype. At $26,402,500, Basquiat broke his previous record of $20.1 million for another Untitled, which now sits as the tenth item in this roundup.

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Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (Yellow tar and feathers) (1982). Courtesy of artnet Price Database.

8. Untitled (Yellow tar and feathers) (1982): $25,925,000
According to Sotheby’s, Untitled (Yellow tar and feathers) belongs to a collection of works Basquiat exhibited in a 1982 show at Larry Gagosian’s Los Angeles gallery. Gagosian sold the painting to a private collector, and there it stayed until its present owner snagged the historic work for well-above the high estimate of $20 million.

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Jean-Michel Basquiat, Undiscovered genius of the Mississippi Delta (1983). Courtesy of artnet Price Database.

9. Undiscovered genius of the Mississippi Delta (1983): $23,685,000
With a wingspan of 15 feet, Undiscovered genius of the Mississippi Delta stuns in both imagery and scale. Grégoire Billault, a senior VP at Sotheby’s Contemporary explained the significance of the piece in an interview with the Huffington Post: “By coupling the symbols and phrases most closely associated with the African American story with the abstract expressionist painterly technique in the multi-panel format, Jean-Michel Basquiat created an exceptional masterpiece of history painting.”

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Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (1981). Courtesy of artnet Price Database.

10. Untitled (1981): $20,092,132
2012 was a big year for Basquiat, and the sale of this painting elevated his market to a new stratosphere. But as we know, in retrospect, it wouldn’t be long before other works in his oeuvre outpaced the sale of this $20 million canvas.


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