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Basquiat Painting Sells for $110 Million, Becoming the Most Expensive Work by an American Artist

May 19, 2017

On Thursday, a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting became the first piece of art created after 1980 to be auctioned off at over $100 million.

Sold by Sotheby's in New York for $110.5 million, CNNMoney reports that the 1982 painting 'Untitled' beat an Andy Warhol piece to become the most expensive work by an American artist. The final price tag also far outstripped the expected auction price of $60 million. Only 10 other pieces have ever fetched more than $100 million before.

The buyer, Japanese Internet entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa, is one of the country's richest people. The founder of online fashion site Zozotown, valued at $3.6 billion by Forbes, is also an avid contemporary art collector. In 2016, he spent $98 million on several pieces within two days—including another Basquiat work, for which he paid $57.3 million.

According to CNNMoney, Maezawa said that he intends to loan his newest possession out for exhibitions worldwide, and then make it the centerpiece of his art museum in Chiba, his hometown.

As its Sotheby's catalog entry notes, Basquiat's "searing, talismanic rendering of a skull" had been part of a private collection since 1984. Its previous owner had bought the piece for $19,000.

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The piece "offers a ferocious portrait of an artist defined by explosive talent and calamitous brilliance," reads the Sotheby's catalog. Basquiat started his career as a street graffiti artist in Brooklyn. He died of an overdose in 1988, aged 27.

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