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Basquiat Painting Auctions for $110 Million, Breaks Record for American Artist

Painting in shape of skull surpasses Andy Warhol record in gasp-inducing sale

A Jean-Michel Basquiat painting sold at a New York auction on Thursday for a record $110.5 million as people in the room were heard gasping.

The untitled 1982 painting of a skull was sold to Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa in the Sotheby’s auction. He beat out four other bidders, according to The New York Times. The high price tag makes the work the sixth most expensive ever sold at auction, and the most expensive work by an American artist ever, beating Andy Warhol.

“In an explosive torrent of gestural vigor, Untitled embodies the indomitable force of Basquiat’s creative insurgency, which, in a flourishing conflagration of word, color, and mark, sent shockwaves through downtown Manhattan in the early 1980s and inaugurated a radical return to figurative painting,” Sotheby’s description reads.

According to the catalogue notes, “Untitled heralds the imminent resurgence of figurative painting through New York in the 1980s. Forged within the crucible of the gritty downtown art scene, Basquiat’s artistic vernacular was at the forefront of a revolution against the reigning artistic dogmas of the preceding decade. Nowhere was more enthusiastically volatile, or more bewitched by an insuppressible ferment of cultural expression, than the creative vortex of downtown Manhattan in the late 1970s and early 1980s.”