Andy Warhol’s Ghostly Portrait of Jean-Michel Basquiat Is Heading to Christie’s With a $20 Million Estimate

The work, from the collection of Peter Brant, is the latest high-profile Warhol to be added to the fall season lineup.

Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat (1982). Courtesy of Christie's Images, Ltd.

The upcoming fall auction season will be a major test of the market for Andy Warhol.

Christie’s has just added a high-profile work by the pop artist to its November lineup: a rare silksreen portrait of Jean-Michel Basquiat that could fetch more than $20 million. It will join a slate of major Warhols already headed for the block, including examples from the collection of Linda and Harry Macklowe at Sotheby’s.

Christie’s will offer Jean-Michel Basquiat at its evening sale of 20th century art on November 11. The work was created in 1982, a late phase for Warhol, but just the right moment for Basquiat, whose paintings from that year have achieved many of his top prices at auction. Warhol’s 40-by-40-inch canvas on an oxidized background is being sold by collector Peter Brant, according to Christie’s.

Once considered the proxy for contemporary art market, demand for Warhol has slumped from a peak in 2014 as tastes changed and supply dried up. Warhol’s works generated about just under $150 million at auction during the first half of 2021, according to the Artnet Price Database. Meanwhile, Basquiat, already a market star, has surged to the top of the charts this year, with sales totaling $302.7 million during the same period, second to only Pablo Picasso.

Jean-Michel Basquiat carries a guarantee (as is often the case with works offered by the market-savvy Brant) and has already been backed by a third-party. The collector bought it from the Mugrabi family about 20 years ago; it was most recently on view in the Whitney exhibition “Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again” in 2018.

Alex Rotter, chairman of 20th/21st century art at Christie’s, said the painting has the potential to reset the Warhol market. The work elevates Basquiat to Warhol’s pantheon of cultural icons such as Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor at a time when the artist’s profile has never been higher. It also celebrates the friendship between the two artists.

“From Brooklyn to China, Basquiat symbolizes a new generation, and Warhol recognized this earlier than anyone,” Rotter said in a statement. “His unmatched ability to capture celebrity, fame, glory, and tragedy culminates in this portrait. Just as much about Basquiat as it is about Warhol, it is one of the most exciting paintings to come to the auction market this year.”

It certainly sets up a war of the Warhols. Sotheby’s is offering Marilyn (9 Times) [Nine Marilyns] (1962), which has an estimate of $40 million to $60 million, from the Macklowe collection.

Brant, a major collector of both Warhol and Basquiat, often cannily times his blue-chip art sales just before an artist’s market ratchets into the stratosphere. Last year, he sold Basquiat’s Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump (1982) for more than $110 million to hedge-fund manager Ken Griffin in a private transaction. The $58.4 million sale of his Jeff Koons Balloon Dog (Orange) in 2013 remained the artist’s auction record for the next six years.

Rotter has been telling his top clients “to pay what it takes” for Jean-Michel Basquiat, he said.  “The ultimate image right now – and for the future  – is Basquiat. I have the highest expectations.”

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