Basquiat ‘Skull’ Painting Sells for US$93.1 Million at Christie’s

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Jean-Michel Baquiat, In this case 1983.

Courtesy Christie’s Images Ltd. 2021

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In this case, a large-format painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat fetched $ 93.1 million in fees at Christie’s 21st century live streaming evening sale on Monday night, the second highest auction price for a work by the artist.

The 1983 skull painting – an acrylic and oil pen work on canvas of an iconic Basquiat painting – sparked fierce bids in six minutes before auctioneer Gemma Sudlow lowered the hammer at a price of $ 81 million. The buyer is anonymous.

The end result was the highest price paid for an auction since Christie’s sold Jeff Koons’ Rabbit for $ 91.1 million.

The monumental painting is believed to be part of a group of three with a large skull that Basquiat created in 1981 and 1982, says Ana Maria Celis, director of Christie’s 21st-century evening sales. The 1982 untitled work sold for $ 110 million in a Sotheby’s sale in 2017.

In this case, the culmination of Christie’s first iteration of a new auction format that focused on works created since 1980. The sale was 95% by lot and 100% by value, totaling $ 210.5 million.

Among those sales were 11 artist auction records, representing nearly a third of the artists on sale. The result “speaks to the desire to collect contemporary art and the artists of our generation,” Celis said at a virtual press conference after the sale.

Artist records include Larva Labs, a software company founded by Matt Hall and John Wakinson that developed an algorithm that was used to create the CrytpoPunks – a set of 10,000 non-fungible tokens, or NFTs. The NFTs were initially offered free of charge.

The nine CryptoPunks on offer generated fees of nearly $ 17 million, which is a high estimate of $ 9 million.

At the press event, Christie’s specialist Noah Davis said it was still unclear whether the buyer, who remains anonymous, would pay in cryptocurrency or US dollars.

Another auction record was set by Rashid Johnson. The artist’s Anxious Red Painting, dated December 18, 2020, painted with a pigment Johnson developed during the pandemic, fetched $ 1.95 million in fees. The 72 by 96 inch painting had an estimate of between $ 200,000 and $ 300,000.

The work was part of the sale each artist donated to Community Organized Relief Efforts (CORE), a nonprofit emergency aid co-founded by actor Sean Penn and human aid veteran Ann Lee. The funds raised will support communities affected by the pandemic.

Those donated works included Joel Mesler’s New York, New York, 2021, which hit a record $ 275,000 for the artist and sold it to an anonymous buyer over the phone with a specialist in Hong Kong. The acrylic and pigment on linen work should be between $ 40,000 and $ 60,000.

In a separate fundraising campaign, the artist Dana Schutz donated her work The Fishermen, 2021, to Art for Acres, a group that campaigns for land conservation. The last lot of the evening, the oil painting attracted fierce offers before being sold for $ 2.97 million with fees to an anonymous buyer on the phone with a specialist in Hong Kong. Organizations that included the Andes Amazon Fund, Global Wildlife Conservation, and the Wyss Foundation provided 300% of that funding to raise a total of $ 9.8 million for Art for Acres, Christie’s said.

The new layout by the Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui, a work of found aluminum bottle caps and copper wire, brought in $ 1.95 million for an auction record. Lynette Yiadom-Boakyes Diplomacy III, 2009, fetched the same price to set an auction record for the artist as well.

Mickalene Thomas’ Raquel Reclining Wearing Purple Jumpsuit, 2016, a work made from oil, acrylic, screen printing, rhinestones, faux pearls, glitter, graphite, and flock on wood panel in two pieces, grossed $ 1.83 million, also a record for the artist. The collage is massive at 96 inches by 144 inches.

Records were also set for works by Martin Kippenberger, Jonas Wood, Nina Chanel Abney, Jordan Casteel and Alex Da Corte.

A baquiat painting also fetched the third highest price for the night. Untitled (soap), sold for $ 13.2 million for a fee.

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