On Tuesday, Japanese e-commerce entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa sold one of his Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings at Phillips auction house in New York for $85 million, including fees, as the market for the late New York artist’s works continues to soar decades after his untimely death at the age of 27.
The nameless painting, which stands almost eight feet tall and more than 16 feet wide, is one of Basquiat’s most massive works. It was made in 1982, a pivotal year in the artist’s career and one in which he completed some of his most well-known works.
Maezawa paid $57 million for the painting in 2016, making it the most expensive piece by Basquiat to ever sell at auction.
Maezawa shattered his own record a year later when he paid $110.5 million for another 1982 Basquiat picture (it was also the most expensive piece by an American artist to sell at auction until this week, when art dealer Larry Gagosian paid $195 million for Andy Warhol’s image of Marilyn Monroe).
Basquiat died in 1988, but his work has skyrocketed in popularity in the last year: he was one of the best-selling painters at auction last year, with over $400 million in sales. Basquiat’s art frequently addressed his identity as a Black man living in the United States, as well as the difficulties that he faced. Michael Stewart, a Black artist who was reportedly beaten to death by New York transit police officers in 1983 for spray painting graffiti at a subway station, is seen in one of his works.
At auction, Basquiat’s art isn’t always a sure thing. Christie’s inexplicably withdrawn a rare triptych and sculpture by Basquiat from auction last week, claiming that both the seller and the auction company decided the market was not ready.
$1.7 billion. According to Forbes’ real-time wealth tracker, Maezawa is worth that amount.