A Basquiat painting just set a $110.5 million auction record for American art

Source: Getty Images
Source: Getty Images

Among American artists, living and departed, Jean-Michel Basquiat just bested them all.

The iconic New York City painter's 1982 piece featuring a colorful skull was auctioned for a record $110.5 million at Sotheby's, making it the sixth most expensive painting ever sold at auction, the New York Times reported on Thursday. The winning bid also sets a record for artwork by any American artist, including Andy Warhol.

Basquiat, who was of Haitian and Puerto Rican heritage, joins a small $100 million-plus artist club — only 10 other works have smashed through the $100 million mark at auction. "He's now in the same league as Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso," Jeffrey Deitch, a Sotheby dealer and expert on Basquiat, told the Times.

The auction of Basquiat's piece elicited gasps from an observing crowd, according to the Times. The winning bid placed over the phone by Yuki Terase, a Japanese business developer for Sotheby's. The developer battled art dealer Nicholas Maclean, who represented Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa. Maclean's client purchased a Basquiat piece for $57.3 million in 2016.

Jean-Michael Basquiat and Andy Warhol.
Source: 
RICHARD DREW/AP

"I almost had to pinch myself to see if I was awake," Larry Warsh, a veteran Basquiat collector, told the Times. "I applaud the compulsion of someone to buy such an iconic and important work."

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Aaron Morrison

Aaron is a Senior Staff Writer for The Movement at Mic. He covers the intersection of race, justice, politics, diversity and civil rights. He has previously written for IB TImes, Miami Herald, The Bergen Record of New Jersey and the Associated Press. Send tips to aaron@mic.com.

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