Basquiat: Through the Eyes of a Friend reveals the artist’s progress towards the point where his Untitled painting was bought by Yosaku Maezawa for $110.5 million. Image: Sotheby’s
NEW YORK, NY—The sale of Basquiat’s Untitled for $110.05 million at Sotheby’s recently was a big deal for art auction history. With the sale, Basquiat has joined the pantheon of artists whose works have sold for millions at auction. They include Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon. The Japanese billionaire Yosaku Maezawa bought the painting. When asked why he paid over a $100 million for a painting, his response was simply: “I decided to go for it,” Mr. Maezawa said in an interview with the New York Times.
Since the auction, many people have expressed their views about the sale of the painting and the artist himself. Some of the quotes are perceptive and provide pertinent insight into why Basquiat became such a successful artist. Some of the comments also touched on aspects of his life that many people do not know about. The Brooklyn -born artist died of a heroin overdose at 27.
These quotes were compiled for educational purposes and a way of highlighting aspects of the sale and the life of the artist many do not understand. They are by auctioneers, art professionals, curators, and members of Basquiat’s family. Of course, one must not overlook quotes of the man who bought the painting. We have also made the effort to bring context to some of the quotes.
1.” Tonight, Jean-Michel Basquiat entered the pantheon of artists whose works have commanded prices over $100 million, including Picasso, Giacometti, Bacon, and Warhol. This extraordinary canvas from 1982 has broken so many benchmarks – a record for any American artist at auction and for a work of art created post-1980, to name just two – but those of us lucky enough to have been in its presence will only remember it’s awesome power. To think that it was created by a virtually unknown 21-year old is humbling. We are thrilled that it was purchased by Yusaku Maezawa for his planned museum so others will have a chance to experience its magic firsthand.” Grégoire Billault, Head of Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Department in New York.— Sotheby’s
2.“The overwhelming visual dynamism of Untitled vehemently declared the arrival of the brilliant, then virtually unknown young artist into a world that would be forever transformed by his paintings. In an explosive torrent of gestural vigor, Untitled embodies the indomitable force of Basquiat’s creative insurgency…” — Sotheby’s
3. “Basquiat happens to be a very popular artist and this one was fresh to the market. The owner got it from his parents in 1982 so it has not been on the market for decades. Patrick van Maris, chief executive of The European FineArt –The Guardian.
4.“If you have a strong piece of art, with a strong provenance and it’s fresh to the market, these are the ingredients for objects to sell very well.” Patrick van Maris, chief executive of The European FineArt Fair (Tefaf)–The Guardian.
5. “When I saw 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 around the world – regardless of age or background or whether they are a collector or not. One day the painting will be a centerpiece of my museum in my hometown Chiba, but before then I wish to loan this piece – which has been unseen by the public for more than 30 years – to institutions and exhibitions around the world. I hope it brings as much joy to others as it does to me, and that this masterpiece by the 21-year-old Basquiat inspires our future generations.” — Yosaku Maezawa
6. “I remember astounding the art world back in the 1980s when I set an auction record for Basquiat at $99, 000,” said Jeffrey Deitch, an art dealer who was the artist’s friend and champion. “All of us, Jean-Michel’s friends, we totally believed in his genius. I always thought he would be one day in the league of Picasso, Bacon and Van Gogh. The work has that iconic quality. His appeal is real.” Yosaku Maezawa— Bloomberg
7. “He is now in the same league as Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso.” Jeffrey Deitch, Art dealer and expert on Basquiat.— The New York Times
8. I am happy to announce that I just won this masterpiece.” Yosaku Maezawa— Instagram.
9. But before then I wish to loan this piece which has been unseen by the public for more than 30 years- to institutions and exhibitions around the world.” Yosaku Maezawa on loaning out the Basquiat Untiled $110.5 million painting — New York Times
10. “I hope it brings as much joy to others as it does to me, and that this masterpiece by the 21-year-old Basquiat inspires our future generations.” Yosaku Maezawa— Instagram.
11. It’s historical moment… It does cement this artist once again. — Larry Warsh, a longtime Basquiat collector. — New York Times.
12. Here he is, blazing a trail not only in terms of the Market but also in terms of how his work is perceived more widely. It speaks to the broader elements of American culture. And what a powerful moment to have that happen. Adam Pendleton, an African American artist on the importance of the sale. — New York Times.
13. “Vast numbers of people are aware of Jean- Michel Basquiat all over the world,”… “and that is really only because of the immense price.” The art dealer Jeffrey Deitch, a long time Basquiat expert.” — The New York Times
14. “It’s an artist who we missed. We didn’t bring his paintings into the collection during his life and thereafter.” Ann Temkin, the chief curator of paintings and sculpture at the Museum of Modern art, which does not own a single Basquiat. — New York Times.
15. “I want to show beautiful things and share them with everyone. It would be a waste just to keep it all to myself.” Yosaku Maezawa.— Instagram.
16. “You’re talking about a handful of masterpieces, which are distributed among a few collectors who are not sellers. You’re going to have to wait a long time if you are a major collector to see another extraordinary painting like this.” Art dealer Brett Gorvy, a former Christie’s chairman.— New York Times.
17. “It’s humbling and satisfying to see this happen 30 years after he passed away. We have been walking on Cloud 9.” Lisane, one of Basquiat said after the sale of the painting. — New York Times.
18. “He’s a very serious collector, hugely engaged.” Amy Cappellazzo a Sotheby’s chairwoman said about Yosaku Maezawa who bought the painting. — New York Times
19. “I learned that many people wanted to have this piece of art so much. I was sure that my eye was certain.” —Yosaku Maezawa explaining the bidding war during the sale of Basquiat’s Untitled at Sotheby’s.
20. “I just follow my instinct. When I think it is good, I buy it.” Yosaku Maezawa explains why he paid over a $100 million dollars for Basquiat’s painting. — New York Times.
21. “Jeanine and I have been Basquiat’s since the day we were born,” …“ we also have our own lives.” Lisane, one of Basquiat’s sisters explaining how proud they were of their brother. — New York Times
22. “He was creative, and that fed him—he absorbed everything. He saw himself as someone who was going to be big.” Jeanine, one of Basquiat’s two sisters said about their brother. — New York Times
23. “Don’t you think two is enough?” Yosaku Maezawa on if he was going to buy any more Basquiat. — New York Times