Jean-Michel Basquiat painting sells at auction for $110.5 Million

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I saw this ad (below left) for Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction, which took place last night. The ad caught my attention for two reasons: I thought it was a gorgeous photograph of a Basquiat canvas, with the fact that they’re showing it hanging on the wall gives one a sense of how big it is … the image made me wish I could see it in person. The 2nd thing I noticed in the ad was that it said “estimate upon request.” I wondered, why won’t they give out the information on what the estimate for this painting is? Do they really think they’ll add to their potential client list by forcing people to call and ask for the estimate? Won’t the major players who can spend millions on a Basquiat already know that a major painting is coming up for sale at auction? Why not let the curious public know how much this might sell for?

Well, even if they had posted the estimate – $60 million was the guarantee to the seller – no one would have guessed that it would eventually sell last night for a whopping $110.5 million! Scroll down for more …

Yusaku Maezawa next to $110 million dollar Basquiat painting

The sale price of $110.5 million made this Basquiat painting the sixth most expensive work ever sold at auction. Only ten other works have broken the $100 million mark. Quite often at these types of auctions, the sellers and buyers keep a low profile, but last night soon after the sale was completed, the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa posted a picture of himself next to the painting (above right) with the caption: “I am happy to announce that I just won this masterpiece.”

So, who is Yusaku Maezawa, and how did he gain his fortune? I found it interesting to learn that he was in a band in high school, and upon graduation, rather than go to college, he moved to the United States and started collecting CDs and records of bands that he liked. When he returned to Japan, this music collection became the basis for his first business, in which he sold CDs and records of his favorite bands by mail from his home. When he moved this business online in 2000, he started selling clothing online as well, and it became Japan’s largest online fashion mall, Zozotown. You can learn more about Maezawa here and here.

The good news is that Maezawa is not going to hide away this Basquiat in his own private home; he plans on loaning it to institutions and exhibitions around the world in advance of eventually placing it in his own museum, which is still in the planning stages, but will eventually open in Chiba, east of Tokyo.

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