Whenever a Basquiat appears on the market, huge interest and astronomical sales are all but guaranteed, but Phillips just announced a particularly scintillating offer from the Japanese collector Yusaku Maezawa: Basquiat’s 1982 Untitled, an enormous and stunning self-portrait of sorts inspired by Picasso’s Guernica that clocks in at approximately 16 feet across. In Untitled, Basquiat renders himself as a dreadlocked demon surrounded by slashes of vivid red, green, black and white paint. Phillips is anticipating that the painting will sell for approximately $70 million, and Maezawa, who acquired Untitled at auction in 2016 for $57.3 million, is happy to give up the treasure so that it can be enjoyed by others.
“The past six years of having Basquiat’s Untitled was nothing but a great pleasure and it has become a memorable piece in my collection,” Maezawa said in a statement. “I believe that art collections are something that should always continue to grow and evolve as the owner does. I also believe that it should be shared so that it can be a part of everyone’s lives. I hope that Untitled will continue its great journey in good hands and that it will bring smiles to many people all around the world.”
Indeed, amongst a catalog of extraordinary creations that makes up Basquiat’s output, this painting sticks out for its enormity and for the starkness of its visual communication. The artist often filled his canvases with recurring symbols and motifs, but none of those flourishes are present here. With colors that function as a nod to Abstract Expressionism, Basquiat placed himself front and center and also indicted himself; indicted his own rage.
“Seldom in the auction world are you fortunate enough to see an artwork whose dynamism matches that of its artist and collector,” Jean-Paul Engelen, Phillips’ President, Americas, added in a statement. “And that is exactly what we have here. Works of this caliber are rarely seen at auction and the demand from collectors is unprecedented. We are honored to have been entrusted by Mr. Maezawa with the sale of Untitled.”