Jean-Michel Basquiat’s ‘Warrior’ painting auctioned for $41.9 million

The artist's reputation has soared since his death in 1988 from a drug overdose at the age of 27

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A 1982 Jean-Michel Basquiat painting titled “Warrior” sold for $41.9 million on Tuesday at Christie’s auction house in Hong Kong.

Estimated at $31 million, the painting is said to speak to the struggles of Black men in white society. The “Warrior” piece leads a week of 20th- and 21st-century live-streamed auctions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s. The work, which attracted three bidders, sold to an anonymous buyer on March 23, the New York Times reports. In 2017, Basquiat’s “Untitled” artwork sold at Sotheby’s New York to Japanese billionaire collector Yusaku Maezawaw, who reportedly paid $110 million for the piece.

Read More: Jean-Michel Basquiat: Sotheby’s finds hidden signature on work

“Basquiat is one of the strongest markets coming out of the pandemic,” said art dealer Christophe van de Weghe. “It’s worldwide. You can sell Basquiat, like Picasso, to someone in India or Kazakhstan or Mexico. You can have a 28-year-old spending millions on Basquiat and you can have a guy who is 85. He appeals to all kinds of people, from rappers to hedge-fund guys.’’

Jean-Michel Basquiat painting ‘Warrior’ / Twitter

As theGRIO reported, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s untimely death in 1988 has not ended the reverence that art collectors have for his work. His paintings are often covered in words and doodles. The acclaimed artist signed some paintings with a crown, others with his graffiti alter ego SAMO — but relatively few with his full name.

The son of a Haitian father and Puerto Rican mother, Brooklyn-raised Basquiat developed a vibrant style influenced by Picasso and the Abstract Expressionists as well as by the work of street graffiti artists. His works celebrate icons of Black culture, from athletes like Muhammad Ali and Hank Aaron to musicians like Miles Davis and Charlie Parker, and often allude to the legacy of slavery and colonialism.

Basquiat’s reputation has soared since his death from a drug overdose at the age of 27. “Untitled” sold for $14.6 million at Sotheby’s in 2007 before the resale ten years later to Maezawaw, and “Untitled (Boxer)” sold for $13.5 million in New York in 2008.

Diego Cortez, the curator who was instrumental in launching the career of Basquiat, previously described the late artist as “very extreme and completely absorbed in his work.

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Speaking to the 200%, Cortez added, “He had a short, but full working career in terms of an evolution of his work until his death. You see all these different periods and styles that would normally take place over 30 or 40 years of an artist’s life but with him it was just in seven or eight years.”

When asked if Basquiat did enough in addressing slavery, colonialism, racism in his work, Cortez replied, “Yes and no.”

“On one level he was apolitical; he wasn’t that involved in politics or talking about politics. He was basically focusing on his visual discoveries,” he continued. “There is political subject matter in his work, of course, but there is a complete lexicon in his work – the whole kitchen sink. There is an affinity with Black culture obviously but he was also very interested in European and all world cultures.” 

Cortez, added, “He was at ease in the art world at a time when it was predominately white. He helped alter that demographic. That also excited me.”

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