Billionaire Yusaku Maezawa sells Basquiat paintings for $85 million

Japanese e-commerce billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has sold one of his Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings for $85 million, fees included, at Phillips auction house in New York, as the market for paintings by the late New York artist continues to surge decades after Sudden Death at the age of 27.

key facts

  • Nearly 2.44 meters high and over 4.88 meters wide, the untitled painting is among Basquiat’s most monumental works and was completed in 1982, a turning point in the artist’s career and a year in which he completed some of his best-known works.
  • Yusaku Maezawa bought the painting in 2016 for US$57 million, which was Basquiat’s most expensive work ever sold at auction at the time.
  • Yusaku Maezawa broke his own record a year later by buying another 1982 Basquiat painting for $110.5 million (it was also the most expensive work by an American artist to sell at auction until last week’s Andy Warhol’s portrait by Marilyn Monroe was auctioned off by art dealer Larry Gagosian for $195 million).

Basquiat died in 1988, but his work has grown in popularity over the past year: last year he was one of the best-selling artists at auction, and his work has sold for over $400 million in total. Basquiat’s art often explores his identity as a black man living in the United States and the issues that affect him. One of his paintings depicts Michael Stewart, a black artist who was allegedly beaten to death by New York Transit Police officers in 1983 for spray-painting graffiti in a subway station. The Black Lives Matter movement has prompted the art world and wealthy collectors to re-examine the work of color artists, including Basquiat. Basquiat and his work have also been brought to a younger generation through collaborations that his estate – run by his sisters – has with big brands like Coach and Dr. Martens has built, made known. One of his paintings was widely featured in a Tiffany jewelry advert starring Beyoncé and Jay-Z, who have been collecting Basquiat’s work for years. Last month, Basquiat’s estate opened a major exhibition in New York, curated by his family, which featured nearly 200 works, most of which had never been seen by the public.

Basquiat’s work is not necessarily a safe bet at auction. Last week, a rare triptych and sculpture by Basquiat was mysteriously withdrawn from sale by Christie’s at the last minute because the seller and the auction house believed the market was not ready.

Important figure

$1.7 billion. This is Yusaku Maezawa Net Worth according to Yusaku Maezawa Real Time Net Worth Tracker forbes.

the context

Yusaku Maezawa made his fortune with Zozotown, Japan’s largest online fashion mall, which he founded in 1998. In 2019, he sold parent company Zozo to Yahoo Japan for $3.7 billion and quit as CEO to have more time for space travel, he said. Yusaku Maezawa made headlines last year when he paid for his flight on the International Space Station and joined a growing list of billionaires targeting private space companies. In 2018, Yusaku Maezawa bought the first ticket to fly around the moon with SpaceX, the company of fellow billionaire Elon Musk, scheduled for 2023.

Article translated by Forbes US – Author: Carlie Porterfield

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