A Japanese billionaire has just bought a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting at the Sotheby’s auction of contemporary art for $110.5 million (₦34.7billion), the highest price ever paid at auction for a work by an American artist.
The painting, titled "Untitled" was unknown before it was unveiled at Sotheby’s weeks ago. The auction house said it remained in the same private collection since it was bought at auction in 1984 for $19,000.
Sotheby’s said the sale of “Untitled” was an auction record for the artist. It also set a record price for an American artist at auction. The painting’s graffiti-like typography depicts a face in the shape of a skull.
The Japanese buyer, e-commerce tycoon Yusaku Maezawa, said he plans to loan the painting out around the world before making it the centrepiece of his museum in his hometown of Chiba.
"I hope it brings as much joy to others as it does to me, and that this masterpiece by the 21-year-old Basquiat inspires our future generations," he said in a statement.
The sale of the picture at Sotheby's in New York puts it in an elite club: only 10 other works have sold for more than $100 million.
Painted by Basquiat in 1982, "Untitled" has now fetched the sixth highest price ever for a work of fine art. The Sotheby's catalogue describes it as a "raw, uncensored, and fiercely magnificent."
Raised in Brooklyn, Basquiat was a maverick of the New York art scene in the 1980s. Of Puerto Rican and Haitian descent, he initially gained attention for his graffiti before eventually becoming one of the most celebrated artists of the time.
Basquiat died of a drug overdose in 1988 at age 27.