A Medici-Themed Basquiat Painting Could Sell for $50 Million at Sotheby’s to Become One of the Priciest Works by the Artist Ever
In a dramatic video posted on Instagram Thursday night, Sotheby’s revealed a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat that is set to star in the upcoming contemporary art evening sale. According to a press release from the company, the work was never auctioned. It was acquired in 1990 by a private collector who bought it from Belgian collector Stephane Janssen, who brought it straight from the artist’s studio during a visit supervised by Larry Gagosian.
The 1982 work, entitled Versus Medici, was painted by the artist when he was only 22 years old. It is estimated to raise between $ 35 million and $ 50 million, which automatically makes it into the top tier of the late artist’s paintings. Four of the five most expensive Basquiat lots were painted in 1982. If the painting hits its high esteem, it could be the third most expensive to date at auction, according to the Artnet Price Database.
On the animated, vertical screen, Basquiat is, according to a press release, “ambitiously waging war against art history and not only securing his own place in this history, but also crowning himself as the successor to these Renaissance masters”.
The title commemorates the almighty Medici family who ruled during the Renaissance and would have been known to the well-trained artist who had spent some time in Modena, Italy, prior to his exhibitions in the Galleria d’Arte Emilio Mazzoli in 1981 and 1982. As Basquiat’s star rose in New York, LA, and internationally, he would have become more aware of the power structures that sustain the international marketplace. This painting, the auction house claims, is a glove that was thrown off in order to establish itself “in the canon”.
A black skeletal figure stands the length of the canvas with a mess of pink bowels over his torso – a nod to da Vinci’s interest in science and the artist’s familiarity with Gray’s Anatomy. The composition features hallmarks of Basquiat’s best work, including a crown, scribbled text that reads “Aopkehsks”, and overlapping colors of blue, red, and yellow. All of these are valuable attributes for eagle-eyed collectors.
Sotheby’s announcement follows Christie’s record-breaking sale of Basquiat’s Warrior (1982), which sold in Hong Kong for $ 41.8 million.
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