A Prized Basquiat Owned by Billionaire Mega-Collector Yusaku Maezawa Could Fetch More Than $70 Million at Auction This Spring

Maezawa also revealed he is planning to build a museum to house his collection.

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (1982). Image courtesy Phillips.

Basquiat generated $439.6 million at auction in 2021, the most ever for the artist—and second only to Pablo Picasso. The revelation of yet another blockbuster consignment today may add even more fuel to the momentum.

Japanese billionaire entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa will sell one of his prized Basquiat paintings, the large-scale bright orange Untitled (1982), at Phillips on May 18. The collector acquired it from Christie’s in May 2016 for $57.3 million. (It was sold by New York collector-dealer Adam Lindemann.) If the work achieves its $70 million estimate, it means a roughly $12.7 million markup and presumably a handsome profit for Maezawa following a nearly six-year holding period. Phillips confirmed that the work is backed by a third party guarantee, which means it will sell regardless of the bidding activity.

To date, eight Basquiat works have sold for $40 million or more at auction, according to the Artnet Price Database. Maezawa’s is currently the third most expensive Basquiat ever sold publicly.

Maezawa is also the owner of the most expensive Basquiat painting ever sold at auction, an image of a giant skull with a blue background. Untitled (1982) sold for $110.5 million at Sotheby’s in May 2017.

“The past six years of having Basquiat’s Untitled was nothing but a great pleasure and it has become a memorable piece in my collection,” Maezawa said in a statement. “I believe that art collections are something that should always continue to grow and evolve as the owner does. I also believe that it should be shared so that it can be a part of everyone’s lives.”

Yusaku Maezawa.

Maezawa added that he is planning to exhibit his holdings at a forthcoming museum dedicated to his collection. It will be located in Japan, sources familiar with the planning said.

In the lead-up to the auction, the red Basquiat will embark on an international tour starting today in London. It will travel to Los Angeles and Taipei before heading to Phillips’s New York headquarters at 432 Park Avenue.

“When looking at Basquiat’s career, 1982 is often considered an inflection point in his meteoric rise to international fame,” said Cheyenne Westphal, Phillips’s global chairwoman. In 1982, at just 21 years old, Basquiat had six solo shows around the world, including one with his first gallerist Annina Nosei, which established him as a household name. 

This particular work is featured on the cover of the artist’s 1996 catalogue raisonné. Notably, Phillips will accept Ethereum, Bitcoin, or fiat currency for the work.

The May auction comes at a particularly exciting moment for Jean-Michel Basquiat. In early April, a landmark exhibition—the first ever organized by his siblings, who oversee his estate—opens in New York. “Basquiat: King Pleasure” will include more than 200 never-before-seen and rarely shown paintings, drawings, and ephemera. 

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