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Jean-Michel Basquiat’s career was explosive - defined by a visual style that combined childlike imagery with issues of race, culture and celebrity. Though his career was short, Basquiat’s explosive painterly style, exploration of race and culture, and standout childlike iconography has secured his status as one of the most successful street artists and African American painters of the 20th Century.

Untitled by Jean-Michel Basquiat

Untitled © Jean-Michel Basquiat 1982

1. £85.2M for Jean-Michel Basquiat's Untitled, 1982

On 8 May 1984, New York collectors Jerry and Emily Spiegel bought Basquiat’s Untitled from Christie’s for US$19,000. Fast forward to 18 May 2017, the painting was once again at auction – almost 33 years to the day of the previous sale – this time at Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction.

Bidding started at US$57 million and, after more than 10 minutes of intense back-and-forth over the telephones, Untitled sold for US$110.5 million – setting a new record price for Basquiat and for American artists. The buyer was billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who also snapped up another masterpiece by Basquiat at Christie’s a year earlier. “When I first encountered this painting, I was struck with so much excitement and gratitude for my love of art. I want to share that experience with as many people as possible,” the Japanese collector wrote on Instagram after the sale.

Only 10 other works had broken the US$100 million mark at the time. Untitled remains the most expensive artwork by Basquiat sold at auction.

Untitled by Jean-Michel Basquiat

Untitled © Jean-Michel Basquiat 1982

2. £68.6M for Jean-Michel Basquiat's Untitled, 1982

Back at auction in 2022, Untitled managed to beat the artist's own record, selling for US$85 million at Phillips in May. The arresting, large-scale work sits among Basquiat's most iconic: exemplifying his expressive brushstrokes as well as his including his mask motif.

In this case by Jean-Michel Basquiat

image © Christie's / In this case © Basquiat 1983

3. £65.7M for Jean-Michel Basquiat's In this Case

Curator Fred Hoffman wrote that what drew Basquiat to depicting the human form was ‘his fascination with the face as a passageway from exterior physical presence into the hidden realities of man’s psychological and mental realms.” The artist's monumental work In This Case is a testament to this.

Painted when Basquiat was just 22, there is a sense of immediacy and urgency here, amplified by the deep palette, jagged linework and overlapping sketches that have become so associated with the artist's style. In this Case recently sold for £65.7million at Christie’s New York on May 11th 2021.

Untitled by Jean-Michel Basquiat

Untitled © Jean-Michel Basquiat 1982