A poet, musician, and graffiti prodigy in late-1970s New York, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s painting style consist of obsessive scribbling, elusive symbols and diagrams, and mask-and-skull imagery by the time he was 20. “I don’t think about art while I work,” he once said. “I think about life.” Basquiat drew his subjects from his own Caribbean heritage—his father was Haitian and his mother of Puerto Rican descent—and a convergence of African-American, African, and Aztec cultural histories with Classical themes and contemporary heroes like athletes and musicians. Often associated with Neo-expressionism, Basquiat received massive acclaim in only a few short years, showing alongside artists like Julian Schnabel, David Salle, and Francesco Clemente. In 1983, he met Andy Warhol, who would come to be a mentor and idol. The two collaborated on a series of paintings before Warhol’s death in 1987, followed by Basquiat’s own untimely passing a year later.
American, 1960-1988, New York, New York, based in New York, New York
Yusaku Maezawa, the Japanese e-commerce billionaire, purchased Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled (1982) at Thursday night’s Contemporary Art evening sale at Sotheby’s. The canvas was hammered down at $98 million after a dramatic 10-minute bidding war, coming to $110.4 million with the buyer’s premium. It marks the highest auction price ever for an American artist—unseating Andy Warhol, whose $105 million auction record was set by Silver Car Crash (Double Disaster) (1963) at Sotheby’s New York in November 2013—and the second-highest price for any contemporary work.