A painting by late graffiti artist-turned-expressionist painter, Jean-Michel Basquiat, has become the most expensive at auction of any US artist, fetching $110.5m (£85m) in New York.
“Untitled”, a 1982 work in oil stick, acrylic and spray paint, depicting a powerful crazed face shaped as a skull, also broke the salesroom record for a black artist, and is the first created since 1980 to top the $100m mark.
It places the Brooklyn-born Basquiat, who died in 1988 of a heroin overdose aged 27, as one of the most coveted artists in the worldalongside Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso, and the young American’s friend and mentor, Andy Warhol.
Cheers and applause greeted the winning telephone bid following an intense 10-minute auction at Sotheby’s. Japanese entrepreneur and contemporary art collector Yusaku Maezawa, 41, later revealed his identity in an Instagram post with a photograph of himself seated on the floor looking up at his latest acquisition.
“I am happy to announce that I just won this masterpiece,” he posted. “When I first encountered this painting, I was struck with so much excitement and gratitude for my love of art”.
Maezawa, who created online fashion retail website Zozotown, and founded the Contemporary Art Foundation, said he will display the work at a planned new museum in his hometown Chiba, Japan, but before that will loan it to institutions and exhibitions around the world.
It is the second time the Japanese collector has set a record for a Basquiat piece. Last year he paid $57.3m for an untitled painting of a horned devil, making the artist the highest-grossing American artist at auction last year, according to Artprice.
Basquiat had been an artist for just seven years when he died. His raw and brutal works draw on the problems faced by African Americans in the US.
The son of a Haitian father and mother of Puerto Rican descent, Basquiat was part of the informal graffiti duo SAMO, and a prodigy who emerged in Lower East Side Manhattan as part of the hip hop, post punk and street art movements in the late 1970s.
He had his first solo exhibition in 1980 and swiftly became established. In the space of very few years had gone from from selling drawings for $50 to selling out his first solo exhibition at New York’s Annina Nosei gallery, earning $250,000.
He met Warhol in a restaurant and had shown him samples of his work, and the two became friends and later collaborated. Basquiat would spend time with David Bowie, and was reported to have briefly dated the singer, Madonna.
As his reputation grew and his works appeared in New York’s most sought-after galleries, he appeared on the cover of the New York Times Magazine alongside the headline “New Art, New Money: The Marketing of an American Artist”.
His death, in his Manhattan art studio, bequeathed him cult status. In the last decade his work has increased 10-fold in value. This latest sale exceeds even that of his mentor, Warhol, whose “Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) sold for £105.4m in 2013.
Grégoire Billault, head of Sotheby’s contemporary art department in New York, said of the sale: “Tonight, Jean-Michel Basquiat entered the pantheon of artists whose works have commanded prices over $100m, including Picasso, Giacometti, Bacon and Warhol”.
“Untitled” had been in the same private collection since it was bought at auction in 1984 for $19,000, and so was virtually unknown before its unveiling at Sotheby’s weeks ago. “We are thrilled that it was purchased by Yusaku Maezawa for his planned museum so others will have a chance to experience its magic firsthand,” Billault said.
The $100m artists club: paintings that have fetched more than $100m at auction
$179.4m. Pablo Picasso “Les Femmes d’Alger” (Version 0). 2015.
$170.4m. Amedeo Modigliani “Nu Couche”. 2015.
$142m. Francis Bacon Triptych “Three Studies of Lucian Freud”. 2013.
$119.9m. Edvard Munch “The Scream”. 2012.
$110.5m. Jean-Michel Basquiat “Untitled”. 2017.
$106.5m. Pablo Picasso “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust”. 2010.
$104.5m Andy Warhol “Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster). 2013.
$104m. Pablo Picasso “Garçon à la Pipe”. 2004.
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