Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese billionaire art collector, made headlines in May 2016 following an extensive art-buying binge that included the acquisition of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled, 1982, at Christie’s for $57.3 million.
Maezawa, 46, now wants to sell the Basquiat at a Phillips auction in New York on May 18 for an estimated price of US$70 million, according to the auction house.
If it sells for that much, the painting will remain the second most expensive Basquiat piece ever sold publicly, after Maezawa’s purchase of another Untitled, 1982, work for US$110.5 million at Sotheby’s in May 2017.
Maezawa, the creator of Zozotown, a Japanese internet shop, and the Contemporary Art Foundation in Tokyo, has lately made news for his 12-day mission to the International Space Station.
In 2023, the collector will be the first paying passenger aboard Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
One of the artist’s greatest canvases, the 8-by-16-foot Basquiat artwork being offered by Phillips is an intense burst of vivid colours apparently lighted from inside, with a gigantic head with devil horns and a furious look. It was created in 1982, which is widely regarded as the most crucial year in the artist’s brief career. Basquiat died in 1988 at the age of 27.
“It’s the pinnacle year of Basquiat, 1982, and one of the largest paintings he did, that is filled with drips and Abstract Expressionist gestures,” says Jean-Paul Engelen, president, Americas, at Phillips. The imagery reveals the artist balancing becoming a kind of rock star given his background and environment, and “seeing the other side of the coin to fame and success,” Engelen says.