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Jean-Michel Basquiat is one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. His art exemplified a childhood spirit that many lose as adults but yearn to recreate as we get older. Basquiat represented Black art during a time when Black artists didn’t get much love. His style was timeless; it was unsophisticated but beautiful. The simplicity made it relatable. The messages and meaning behind his pieces were always relevant and poignant. So much so that his paintings are highly sought after, and they come with a hefty price tag.
Just this year alone, there were 18 Basquiat paintings sold totaling $258 million in sales. Below we’ve created a running list of all the Basquiats sold in 2021, including their value at sale. I don’t have the right to pull the images of all his paintings, so I’ve included links; check them out at your leisure.
Who is Jean-Michel Basquiat?
Born in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn on Dec. 22, 1960, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s father was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and his mother was born in Brooklyn to parents of Puerto Rican descent. As a child, Basquiat was very intelligent. He was reading and writing at 4-years-old. By the age of 7, he was fully fluent in French, Spanish and English. His favorite hobby was reading stories and books in all three languages. His mother frequently took him to local art museums. He fell in love with art, just as his mother did.
Throughout his youth, Basquiat’s mother struggled with mental health and spent the majority of his childhood in and out of psychiatric hospitals. This took a heavy toll on him and he ran away from home at 15, sleeping on benches in Washington Square Park. Police would arrest him and take him back to his father in Brooklyn.
It was the streets that opened up Basquiat’s world to graffiti. He and his childhood classmate, AL Diaz, started spray painting buildings in Lower Manhattan using the tag SAMO. At 17, he was kicked out of high school, then kicked out of his father’s house for dropping out of school. This didn’t stop him from tagging and on Dec. 11, 1978, The Village Voice, a prominent magazine in the city published an article about SAMO graffiti.
Less than a year later he would appear on a public-access television show called “The Party,” showing his art and talking graffiti. Even though the show was not super popular, Basquiat was able to make lots of friends and do a lot of collaborations, from clothing lines, to costume designs, as well as others.
The 1980s were known as the wonder years for Basquiat. His art started to take a larger-than-life form. After appearing in some galleries during the summer of 1980, Basquiat sold his first painting, “Cadillac Man 1981,” to Debbie Harry, lead singer of the punk rock band Blondie, for $200.
In September 1981, art dealer Annina Nosei invited him to join her gallery where he received a loft and a space to work on Crosby Street in SoHo. There he would paint some of his most iconic early works and by that summer he would leave Annina to join the worldwide art dealer Bruno Bischofberger. His art was now being sold all over the world, and by 21 he would become the youngest artist to ever take part in Documenta, one of the biggest art exhibitions in the world.
For the next 5 years, Basquiat would collaborate with and inspire some of the biggest artists in the world, but his connection with Andy Warhol would stand out the most. Warhol, already famous in his own right, was the complete opposite of Basquait. His contemporary art was very concrete and recognizable, but Basquiat’s art was animated, childlike and free. Their collaborations were extremely popular, but also controversial.
By 1982 Basquiat was earning over $1.4 million a year for his art. He had pieces on the market for $50,000, but like many artists, he was haunted by his demons. As Basquiat’s bank account grew, so did his drug addiction to cocaine. In 1986, Basquiat and his girlfriend checked into a drug program, but he quit only after a few short weeks. He continued to do exhibits all over the world until Warhol died in 1987. Drugs were the only way Basquiat knew how to cope with the death of his friend, so he took to it hard. On Aug. 12, 1998, Basquiat would fatally overdose in his home in Manhattan.
Basquiat’s Impact Today
Basquiat is validation for how powerful Black art can be. His impact on the world is enormous; from art to music to fashion, Basquiat has touched is all.
- He’s still featured on covers of magazines like Vanity Fair,
- The NBA’s Brooklyn Nets have a basketball jersey inspired by his art.
- 2007 He was listed as one of GQ’s 50 Most Stylish Men Of The Past 50 years Jay-z constantly raps about him in his songs.
- Jay-Z and Beyoncé did a shoot for Tiffany’s using a never before seen Basquiat painting.
- Kevin Young published a book of poems dedicated to Basquiat’s Life
Here is a running list of all the Basquiat paintings sold in 2021, including their value at sale.
1982 Untitled (One Eyed Man pro Xerox Face) – Sold in May 2021 at Christie’s in Hong Kong – $30.2 Million
In The Case 1983 Sold at Christie’s in New York for $93.1 Million – painting was last purchased publicly in 2002 and sold for a little under $1 Million
Versus Medici 1982 – Sold in March at Sotheby’s in New York for $50.8 Million
Warrior 1982 Sold at Christie’s in Hong Kong in March for 41.8 million
Untitled 1985 (Triptych) Sold at Sotheby’s in New York for $37.2 million with just two bidders.
Untitled 1978 Sold at Sotheby’s in London for $50,000. This painting was acquired from a gallery from Long-Sharp Gallery in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Untitled 1983 Sold at Sotheby’s in London for $853,120. It was acquired from Tony Sharfrazi Gallery in New York
Untitled (Flexible) 1984 Sold in June at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong for $97,110. 85 copies were printed in 2016; this is #4 of 85 from the lot.
Dealer’s dog 1983 Sold in June at Sotheby’s for $252,136 from an European Private Collection
Untitled (Black) Sold in May at Sotheby’s in New York for 1.8 million.
Untitled 1985 Sold at Sotheby’s in May at New York for $1.3 million. it was acquired from the Collection of Dr. Robert Farris Thompson
Back of the Neck 1983 Sold In May at Sotheby’s in London for $1.1 million. The is #3 from an edition of 24 plus 3 artist’s proofs
Charles the First 1982 (After Basquiat)Sold in March at Sotheby’s in the UK for $65,885. The original painting was a tribute to jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker. 85 prints were created and certified by the family in 2004.
Rome Pays Off 1982 After Basquiat 2004 Sold in March at Sotheby’s in London for $55,321. 85 Reprinted in 2004, this is #38 of that 85. The original painting sold in 2017 for $110.5 million.
Jawbone of an Ass 1982 After Basquiat 2004 Sold in March at Sotheby’s in London for $55,321. 85 we reprinted in 2004, this is one from the lot.
Untitled (Ernok)1983 After Basquiat 2001 Sold in March at Sotheby’s in London for $93,030. 85 were reprinted in 2001, and this is one from the lot of 85.
Untitled (Head) 1982. After Basquiat 2001. Sold in March at Sotheby’s in London for $93,030. 85 were reprinted in 2001 and this is #9 of 85 from the lot. The original sold for $15.2 million in 2020.
Famous Negro Athletes 1981. Sold in March at Sotheby’s in New York for $189,000.
*Note: These are the paintings sold publicly. These numbers do not take into account paints sold privately.
Basquiat Sales in 2021 (so far) Total: $258 million.