The star of Christie’s Postwar and Contemporary Art auction on May 10, 2016 was Untitled, a monumental self portrait by Jean-Michael Basquiat painted in 1982 – considered his most important year. In the painting Basquiat portrayed himself as a demonic figure, centrally focused as is often the case in Basquiat’s work, surrounded by splashes of paint thrown onto the canvas in the manner of Jackson Pollock. His expressive brush strokes and mastery of colour made him a favourite with many critics of the day who were looking for a change from the Minimalism of the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Standing in front of the painting at the presale viewing, the magnetic appeal of the work drew me in. Its visceral energy vibrating off of the canvas with explosive colour and vigorous brushwork. The marriage of abstraction and figuration seen here is a common thread in Basquiat’s work.
Untitled, 1982 set a world auction record for Basquiat at $57.3 million USD. Yusaku Maezawa, founder of Contemporary Art Foundation and Zozotown, Japan’s largest online fashion mall, was the successful bidder.