Basquiat painting fetches record $110.5M at New York auction

Joan Terry
May 19, 2017

Sotheby's NY saleroom erupted into applause Thursday after a Japanese billionaire paid $110.5 million for a work by Jean-Michel Basquiat, the highest price ever paid at auction for a work by a US artist.

Sotheby's said the sale of the artwork Thursday night in Manhattan was an auction record for the artist.

A Pablo Picasso work "The Women of Algiers" (Version 0) holds the world record for the heftiest price tag at auction at $179.4 million. The work depicts a face in the shape of a skull.

It was purchased by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who founded e-commerce site Zozotown.

The previous auction record for the artist was set last May when "Untitled, 1982" sold for $57.3 million, also to Maezawa. He died in 1988 from a heroin overdose, at the age of 27.

The canvas had been virtually unseen in public since being bought in 1984 for $19,000.

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On Wednesday, rival auction house Christie's sold Basquiat's work "La Hara", a piece from 1981 depicting an angry-looking NY police officer.

Rival auction house Christie's sold Basquiat's La Hara - a 1981 acrylic and oil-stick of an angry-looking NY police officer - for US$35 million on Wednesday, eclipsing its US$22-28 million estimate.

And it's the first work made after 1980 to sell for more than $100 million. "I think it just speaks about the talent of this guy", said Gregoire Billault, Sotheby's head of contemporary art. "It's just pure emotion".

Sotheby's also sold Roy Lichtenstein's "Nude Sunbathing" on Thursday for $24 million.

Christie's announced Thursday that its impressionist, modern, post-war and contemporary sales this week totaled $842.5 million, which it said was up $220 million over its sales last season in November.

Sotheby's auctioneer opened bids yesterday at US$57 million and offered occasional moments of levity and encouragement to the bidders. That piece also sold to Maezawa. His The Women of Algiers (Version 0) fetched US$179.4 million at Christie's in NY in 2015.

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