BASQUIAT | Property from the Collection of Yusaku Maezawa | Phillips


Property from the Collection of Yusaku Maezawa

Sold for $85 MillionModern & Contemporary Art Evening Sale
New York, 18 May 2022

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© Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York

“Seeing Guernica was my favorite thing as a kid.”


Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled is one of the greatest masterpieces of the modern era. Coming from the esteemed collection of Yusaku Maezawa, this monumental tour de force—one of the largest of the artist’s career—leads the New York auction season and will be offered in the Evening Sale of Modern & Contemporary Art on 18 May.

Executed in 1982, the watershed year which shot the artist to international stardom, this extraordinary work is from a small series created in Modena, Italy, where Basquiat visited and exhibited at the invitation of the dealer Emilio Mazzoli during two periods in the early 1980s. Three groundbreaking self-portraits that Basquiat executed during the second trip, including Untitled, have made this pivotal chapter one of the most desirable of his career.

Gracing the cover of the artist’s 1996 catalogue raisonné and featured as a centerpiece in several of his major retrospectives, Untitled has since been renowned as one of the most iconic examples of Basquiat’s radical approach. Its singularity was again solidified when it set the world auction record for the artist in 2016, igniting a renewed market appreciation for his oeuvre.

Basquiat’s pure brilliance is on full display in this monumental canvas, which measures almost eight feet tall and over 16 feet wide. Its striking horizontal format is likely a nod to another landmark image of the 20th century, Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, which the artist saw at the Museum of Modern Art in New York as a child and later recalled left a strong impression on him.

Immediately recognizable by his short, vertical dreadlocks, Basquiat takes the guise of a demonic figure in Untitled, his violent rage declared by the blood red paint dripping from his horns. Rising against a fiery expanse of gestural color evoking the physicality of Abstract Expressionism, the devil subject is a distinct contrast to the artist’s depictions of martyrdom and embodies his interest in the dualities of heaven and hell, good and evil, and sacred and sinful. This masterpiece is unequivocally one of the finest examples of the distinctive iconography and painterly prowess that triumphantly marked the peak of his all-too-short career.

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