Basquiat Painting Sells for $110.5 Million


19 May, 2017

In 1980, American graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat was selling his drawings for $50 each. This week, his painting "Untitled" sold in New York for $110.5 million.

Only 10 works of art have sold at auction for more than $100 million.

Basquiat's painting sets a new record for price of a work by an American artist. An Andy Warhol painting called "Silver Car Crash" was sold in 2013 for $105 million.

Untitled, by Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1982
Untitled, by Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1982

The painting "Untitled" is of a skull-like head against a blue background. It last sold more than 30 years ago for $19,000.

Japanese billionaire Yosaku Maezawa bought "Untitled" at Sotheby's auction house on Thursday night.

Basquiat was a street artist who became famous in the early 1980s. He died of a drug overdose in 1987 at the age of 27.

He was known for using bright colors, words and mixed materials in his work. His art captured the imagination of many artists, gallery owners and musicians in New York City.

Fans and supporters included Andy Warhol, David Bowie and gallery owner Larry Gagosian. At one time, Basquiat's girlfriend was music star Madonna.

Maezawa is a big fan of Basquiat. He bought another Basquiat painting for more than $57 million last year.

Maezawa said he will loan the painting to museums around the world before displaying it in his hometown of Chiba, Japan.

"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," Maezawa said.

Gregoire Billaut is the auction company's head of modern art. He said he has never seen so much emotion in a painting.

"He's bringing something never seen before," Billaut said.

I'm Caty Weaver.

Dan Friedell wrote this story for Learning English based on reports by VOANews.com and the Associated Press. Hai Do was the editor.

What do you think of Basquiat's paintings? We want to know. Write to us in the Comments Section or on 51VOA.COM.

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Words in This Story

auction – n. a public sale at which things are sold to the people who offer to pay the most

masterpiece – n. a great book, painting, piece of music, movie, etc.