Joining the rarefied $100 million-plus club in a salesroom punctuated by periodic gasps from the crowd, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s powerful 1982 painting of a skull brought $110.5 million at Sotheby’s, to become the sixth most expensive work ever sold at auction. Only 10 other works have broken the $100 million mark.
“He’s now in the same league as Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso,” said the dealer Jeffrey Deitch, an expert on Basquiat.
The sale of the painting, “Untitled,” made for a thrilling moment at Sotheby’s postwar and contemporary auction as at least four bidders on the phones and in the room sailed past the $60 million level at which the work — forged from oil stick and spray paint — had been guaranteed to sell by a third party.
Soon after the sustained applause had subsided, the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa revealed himself to be the buyer through a post on his Instagram account. “I am happy to announce that I just won this masterpiece,” he said in the post. “When I first encountered this painting, I was struck with so much excitement and gratitude for my love of art. I want to share that experience with as many people as possible.”
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