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PRINT May 2009

ONLINE ONLY: APRIL 1993: A Day at the Races

Jean-Michel Basquiat, untitled, 1981, ink, crayon, and acrylic on paper, from a set of fourteen drawings, 30 x 22" each.

Projecting an endearing combination of self-effacement and plantation cynicism, Shaquille O’Neal, the #1 NBA draft pick, said in a recent TV profile, “I’ve got three different smiles: the $1 million smile, the $2 million smile, and the $3 million smile.” It went beyond playing the game: with a $40 million contract and limitless prospects for endorsement, O’Neal was a winner. His situation seemed to shed light on the art world’s own black-player-of-the-moment. For there is no doubt that the most bizarre aspect of the recent Jean-Michel Basquiat retrospective at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art was its aura of sport. Analysis of the work was put on hold, pending results of two different horse races.

First: could Basquiat’s prices hold with this much exposure? Answer: yes. The match race between Basquiat and Julian Schnabel continues. At the big New York and London auctions

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