Unseen Basquiat masterpiece set for biggest art sale of 2017



2017-04-21 11:18:13

A Jean Michel-Basquiat painting that has remained unseen for more than 30 years could be set for the biggest art sale on 2017.

The Untitled artwork will hit the auction block at Sotheby's in New York next month, where it's expected to sell for more than $60 million.

It was originally acquired by an art collector in 1984, who purchased at auction for $19,000. For the past 33 years the painting has remained unseen by the public, having never been loaned out for exhibition, and until recently was known only from a small thumbnail picture in the artist’s catalogue raisonné.

"It is an enormous pleasure to bring a Basquiat of this magnitude to the market," said Grégoire Billault, Head of Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Department in New York.

"The scale, subject matter, date and freshness, combined with recent record prices and increased demand for the artist’s work, make May the ideal time to present a masterpiece of this caliber – a truly outstanding achievement of recent art history – to the market."

The painting dates from 1982, during a period in which Basquiat's star was rising within the New York art world. He had begun his career as a struggling graffiti artist, before being inspired by a chance meeting with Andy Warhol, who admired his works and collaborated with him on several projects.

However, Basquiat's rapid rise to fame and fortune took a heavy toll on the young artist, and he struggled with depression before passing away in 1988 due to a heroin overdose at the age of just 27.

"Untitled is among the most important paintings by the artist still in private hands," said the auction house.

"Exploding in a torrent of irrepressible gestural energy that reflects Basquiat’s early beginnings in graffiti, the painting further inaugurated the beginnings of a new mode of figurative painting that took hold of the New York art world in downtown Manhattan in the early 1980s."

The current auction record for a Basquiat painting was set in April 2016, when another of his Untitled works, also dating from 1982, sold at Christie's in New York for $57.2 million.

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