At Sotheby’s contemporary art evening auction on Thursday night, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s painting Untitled, 1982, became the sixth most expensive work ever sold at auction, at $110.5 million, far exceeding its estimate of $60 million. The canvas of a skull was the first work produced since 1980 to make more than $100 million.
“He’s now in the same league as Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso,” dealer Jeffrey Deitch told Robin Pogrebin of the New York Times. The acrylic, spray-paint, and oil-stick work was hammered down to Yaki Terase, the head of Japanese business development for the auction house’s Hong Kong team, who placed the winning bid while on the phone with collector Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese businessman and a founder of the Tokyo Contemporary Art Foundation. Maezawa bought a Basquiat work last year for $57.3 million.
Totaling $319.2 million, the auction saw lively bidding, resulting in 96 percent of its lots sold. Kicking off the sale was Jonas Wood’s Black Still Life, 2012, which brought $1.2 million, wildly exceeding its $250,000 low estimate. Among the other highlights of the night were Roy Lichtenstein’s Nude Sunbathing, 1995, which brought in $24 million; Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild, 1991, which reached $15.4 million; and Cy Twombly’s Silex Scintillans, 1981, which sold for $8.3 million, and Agnes Martin’s Untitled #13, 1980, which netted $8.1 million, both exceeding their high estimates.