Phillips joins the party with an $85 million Basquiat
Achieving a total of $225 million, Phillips' contemporary art auction on 18 May 2022 was the most successful in the auction house's history, and included an excellent Basquiat that fetched $85 million.
By G. Fernández · theartwolf.com · Image: Jean-Michel Basquiat, "Untitled (Devil)", 1982. Oil on canvas, 240 × 500 cm. © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat / ARS New York
In the last ten years, Jean-Michel Basquiat has undoubtedly been one of the biggest names on the art market, to the extent that his work has experienced a rise in value almost unparalleled among contemporary artists. This has led to a certain “oversaturation” of Basquiats on the market, which auction houses are quick to describe as “masterpieces” when, in fact, Basquiat’s undisputed masterpieces that have come on the market in recent years can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
"Untitled (Devil)", an impressive five-metre-long tour de force, is undoubtedly one of these undisputed masterpieces, in my opinion one of the artist's five or six best paintings, and the best Basquiat to come to auction in at least the last five years (taking into account that the sale of "Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump" was a private transaction). With a pre-sale estimate in the region of $70 million, the painting fetched $85 million, a very reasonable price for a painting that sold just six years ago for $57.6 million, and which -as soon as the number of Basquiats in the market is reduced- could easily fetch $100 million.
The Basquiat was the undisputed star of the auction, described by Jean-Paul Engelen, president of Phillips, as "a historic event for the company". Yves Klein's "Relief Éponge bleu sans titre (RE 49)" (1961) fetched $20 million, and "39=50" (1959), one of Alexander Calder's famous "mobiles", fetched $15.6 million, in both cases exceeding their pre-sale expectations. The art market's fascination with the 1932 Picassos led the small "Figures et plante" (measuring just 18.4 x 23.8 cm) to double its pre-sale estimate, fetching $10.2 million.
As has become the norm in recent contemporary art auctions, young artists achieved results well above their expectations, with a special mention to women artists: "The Not Dark Dark Spots" (2017) by Shara Hughes was auctioned for $1.6 million (more than three times its most optimistic pre-sale estimate), "Burrow of the Yellow" (2013) by María Berrío sold for $1 million, and "Buffet II", a still life by the now ubiquitous Anna Weyant -which Phillips compared to the still lifes of the Dutch Golden Age, but which to me reminds me more of Francisco de Zurbarán's still life in the Prado Museum- sold for $730,800, almost five times its most optimistic pre-sale estimate.
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