A vibrant painting of a skull by Jean-Michel Basquiat broke auction records last night when it sold at the whopping price of $110.5 million at Sotheby’s New York. “Untitled,” painted in 1982, now represents the auction world’s most expensive work by an American artist as well as its most expensive artwork created post 1980.
The large canvas, measuring about six by six feet, entered the hands of Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who proudly revealed himself as the winning bidder by posting multiple images of himself posing with his treasure on Twitter and on Instagram. The founder of Japan’s largest online fashion mall, Zozotown, he had placed his bids anonymously, through the phone.
Jean-Michel Basquiat (December 22, 1960 – August 12, 1988) was an American artist. Born in Brooklyn to a Haitian father and Puerto Rican mother, Basquiat first achieved fame as part of SAMO©, an informal graffiti duo who wrote enigmatic epigrams in the cultural hotbed of the Lower East Side of Manhattan during the late 1970s where the hip hop, post-punk, and street art movements had coalesced. By the 1980s, he was exhibiting his neo-expressionist paintings in galleries and museums internationally. The Whitney Museum of American Art held a retrospective of his art in 1992.
Basquiat’s art focused on “suggestive dichotomies”, such as wealth versus poverty, integration versus segregation, and inner versus outer experience. He appropriated poetry, drawing, and painting, and married text and image, abstraction, figuration, and historical information mixed with contemporary critique.
Basquiat used social commentary in his paintings as a “springboard to deeper truths about the individual”, as well as attacks on power structures and systems of racism, while his poetics were acutely political and direct in their criticism of colonialism and support for class struggle. He died of a heroin overdose at his art studio at age 27. (Wikipedia).