Yusaku Maezawa’s CAF Foundation Announces 2016 Contemporary Art Award

The Japanese billionaire and collector is making a splash in the art world.

Yusaku Maezawa. Photo © Yusaku Maezawa.

Remember Yusaku Maezawa? The Japanese billionaire who reeled in seven works at Christie’s and Sotheby’s at New York’s spring auction, putting down a cool $98 million in two days without breaking a sweat?

In May, the online shopping magnate dropped $57.2 million on Jean-Michel Basquiat‘s Untitled (1982), setting a new record for the artist. The sale was peanuts to the young billionaire, who made his fortune in e-commerce, founding the company Start Today in 1998, and the online fashion retailer Zozotown in 2004.

Loic Gouzer of Christie's stands next to the artwork Untitled by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Courtesy of KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images.

Loic Gouzer of Christie’s stands next to the artwork Untitled by Jean-Michel Basquiat. Courtesy of KENA BETANCUR/AFP/Getty Images.

Maezawa revealed his plans to put the art acquired earlier this year on public display in Tokyo at his Contemporary Art Foundation (CAF), which has just announced the call for submissions for its second Artist Award.

The award offers a promising young Japan-based artist a cash prize of the equivalent of £20,000 and a 3-month residency at London’s Delfina Foundation.

“The foundation aims to contribute to the promotion of contemporary art by helping young artists and young musicians improve their skills. It also carries out activities such as holding contemporary art exhibitions, etc. to popularize and improve knowledge and education of contemporary art,” CAF said in a statement.

Maezawa has now solidified his reputation as a mega-collector, and after this year’s edition of Art Basel many media outlets, including Le Figaro, have speculated about his involvement in the monumental sale of the Diego Giacometti library at the Jacques Lacoste Gallery booth in the design section of the fair.

The Giacometti library. Photo: © Hervé Lewandowski, courtesy of the Jacques Lacost Gallery.

The Giacometti library. Photo: ©Hervé Lewandowski, courtesy of Jacques Lacost Gallery.

The Japanese buyer might have had his eye on the famous “book room,” as well as furniture and bronze fixtures designed by Diego Giacometti between 1966 and 1969 for Marc Barbezat, founder of the then literary review (now publishing house) L’Arbalète.

However, artnet News can reveal the rumours circulating about Maezawa’s involvement in the mammoth sale are false.

Jacques Lacoste Gallery told artnet News that they’ve heard all sorts of rumours and names of collectors who might have purchased the library, which they found extremely amusing. They have, however, declined to reveal the true identity of the buyer.

The gallery—which displayed the prodigious library and furniture as it was when it was in use, replete with its illustrated 20th century books, photographs and assorted knick knacks—sold the ensemble for around €1.8 million.

Regardless of the true identity of the buyer, the sale was great news for Art Basel, already having had a good year in a shaky market.

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