The sale of Untitled sets a new high for a work by a US artist and is the first work of art created since 1980 to sell for more than $100m. It lags behind the most expensive painting of all time, Nafea Faa Ipoipo? or When Will You Marry? by Paul Gauguin, which sold for a reported near-$300m in 2015. But nonetheless the purchase by a Japanese entrepreneur underlines the irrepressible lure of art to the wealthy.
Why has a Basquiat painting sold for such a large sum?
Japanese collector and online fashion mogul Yusaku Maezawa, who bought the painting on Thursday night, is a big fan of the New York artist who died of a drug overdose in 1988 aged 27. A year ago, Maezawa snapped up a 1982 untitled work by Basquiat for $57.3m as part of a week-long $98m spending spree during which he also acquired works by Jeff Koons and Richard Prince.
Patrick van Maris, chief executive of The European Fine Art Fair (Tefaf), said the painting’s history was a big factor in the price.
“Basquiat happens to be a very popular artist and this one was fresh to the market. The owner got it from his parents in 1982 so it has not been on the market in decades.
“If you have a strong piece of art, with a strong provenance and it’s fresh to the market, these are the ingredients for objects to sell very well.”
The high price also reflects the fact that 20th-century art increasingly dominates the list of the world’s most expensive paintings, partly because such works are more likely to be available for sale – with classics such as the Mona Lisa unlikely to come on to the market. Only three of the top 10 most expensive paintings are pre-19th century, with most of the highest prices attached to works by Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Gustav Klimt.
Where does the Basquiat rank in the record books?
The art market has been relatively free of eye-catching price tags since 2015, when a flurry of paintings were sold that commanded figures in the hundreds of millions.
The two most expensive paintings in history, sold privately in 2015, are Interchange by Dutch abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning and When Will You Marry?, one of the many Tahiti-inspired works by French artist Gauguin.
De Kooning’s work was bought by American hedge fund billionaire Kenneth C Griffin from the David Geffen Foundation, which previously sold him Jackson Pollock’s Number17A for $200m.
Gauguin’s work was sold by the family of deceased Swiss collector Rudolf Staechelin for “close to” $300m. It was bought for the state of Qatar by Sheikha Al-Mayassa bint Hamad Al-Thani, sister of the emirate’s ruler.
How is the wider art market performing?
Global art sales slumped in 2016 as the number of sales above $10m halved from 160 to 80, according to the latest annual report by art database Artprice. The total raised at auction last year was $12.5bn, it said. That’s down 22% from $16.1bn in the bumper year of 2015, when six of the top 10 priciest works were sold.
Auctions staged in China made up 38% of the global value at about $4.8bn. In fact, China has topped the market in terms of sales value for the past seven years, with the exception of 2015 when it briefly lost its crown to the US. However, much of the Chinese market is made up of traditional calligraphy and Chinese painting that attracts less interest internationally.
The UK sits in third, partly due to the prestigious London auction houses owned by Sotheby’s and Christie’s among others.
Who is buying these multimillion dollar works?
The buyers vying for the most expensive works are: wealthy collectors from the US, Russia and the Middle East; states with deep pockets; or in some cases, museums. Gauguin’s record-breaking When Will You Marry? is one of several works in the top 10 most expensive to be bought by Qatar, including Paul Cezanne’s The Card Players.
Hedge fund billionaires also lurk among the big beasts in the market and seem to have a taste for De Kooning. Griffin’s $300m outlay on Interchange followed fellow investment guru Steven A Cohen shelling out $137.5m for De Kooning’s Woman III. Both were bought from US businessman and philanthropist David Geffen.
Van Maris said the location of buyers tends to reflect broader economic trends.
“Where there is wealth accumulation, you’ll see a few people get very rich and when people get rich they like to start building their collections.
“At the end of the 20th century the Russians were strong, now the Chinese, the Middle East and the Japanese.”
The record for a museum purchase was set in 2015, when Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum and the Louvre in Paris each stumped up half of the €160m (£137m) price for Rembrandt’s Pendant portraits of Marten Soolmans and Oopjen Coppit, which they share.
Source: The Guardian