Among American artists, living and departed, Jean-Michel Basquiat just bested them all.
The iconic New York City painter's 1982 piece featuring a colorful skull was auctioned for a record $110.5 million at Sotheby's, making it the sixth most expensive painting ever sold at auction, the New York Times reported on Thursday. The winning bid also sets a record for artwork by any American artist, including Andy Warhol.
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Basquiat, who was of Haitian and Puerto Rican heritage, joins a small $100 million-plus artist club — only 10 other works have smashed through the $100 million mark at auction. "He's now in the same league as Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso," Jeffrey Deitch, a Sotheby dealer and expert on Basquiat, told the Times.
The auction of Basquiat's piece elicited gasps from an observing crowd, according to the Times. The winning bid placed over the phone by Yuki Terase, a Japanese business developer for Sotheby's. The developer battled art dealer Nicholas Maclean, who represented Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa. Maclean's client purchased a Basquiat piece for $57.3 million in 2016.
"I almost had to pinch myself to see if I was awake," Larry Warsh, a veteran Basquiat collector, told the Times. "I applaud the compulsion of someone to buy such an iconic and important work."