The Investment Guide To Jean-Michel Basquiat

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Rebecca Marsham

Rebecca Marsham, Sales Director[email protected]

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Jean-Michel Basquiat's legacy transcends traditional artistic boundaries, seeping into mainstream media and popular culture. His distinctive, raw aesthetic, characterised by scribbles and bold strokes, is instantly recognisable, enhancing the investment appeal of his works alongside his iconic status. Basquiat's print market presents distinctive opportunities, marked by scarcity and estate-produced prints released after his passing, which have consistently demonstrated their value over a seven-year period. 2023 saw Basquiat's media prominence highlighted at events like LVMH, contributing to his exceptional market performance. With its combination of rarity and contemporary production, Basquiat's print market remains an enticing prospect for investors seeking artworks with both cultural significance and strong investment potential.

In this investment report, we examine Basquiat's print market performance spanning the past seven years. Leveraging auction and sales data from our dedicated database focused on prints and editions, our objective is to provide valuable insights to help you determine whether investing in Basquiat is a wise decision for 2024.

Jean-Michel Basquiat Seven Year Print Market Performance

Basquiat Sales Value And Lots Sold 2017 - 2023 by MyArtBroker 2024Basquiat Sales Value And Lots Sold 2017 - 2023 © MyArtBroker 2024

Is Buying A Basquiat Print A Good Investment?

Basquiat's print market distinguishes itself through its scarcity, with few print series produced during his lifetime. A comprehensive seven-year examination of his print market unveils fluctuating sales values, influenced by the varying number of works sold each year. A significant factor contributing to this trend is the presence of two high-value prints, Back Of The Neck and Untitled, both originating from 1983, which consistently re-enter the market year after year, driving the annual sales value of his print market to new heights.

In 2017, the sales value amounted to £911,681 (hammer) with eight lots sold. The subsequent year, 2018, witnessed a notable rebound, generating over £2 million (hammer) in sales from 14 lots. This pattern persisted into 2019, marked by a lower sales value but a substantial increase in lots sold, potentially attributed to pandemic-related challenges or the absence of Basquiat's two trophy lots in the market. Instead, Basquiat’s 2019 print market performance was predominantly characterised by posthumous prints from Basquiat's estate, with prices ranging from £17,000 to over £100,000 with fees.

In 2020, Basquiat’s print market experienced another surge in sales value, totalling £2.8 million (hammer) with only 14 lots sold. This increase was fuelled by the reappearance of both of Basquiat’s signed trophy works: Untitled sold for over £2 million (with fees), and Back Of The Neck sold for more than £600,000 (with fees).

This recurring pattern of year-over-year (YoY) fluctuations between sales value and lots sold underscores the significant impact of rare, artist-signed ‘trophy’ works, often fetching seven-figure sums. In 2021, although sales value dipped, lots sold increased, mirroring the established pattern. However, 2022 set a record with £2.9 million (hammer) in sales and 12 lots sold, once again driven by the reappearance of the same Untitled trophy print, fetching just over £3 million with fees.

Jean-Michel Basquiat 2023 Print Market Performance

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What Happened In Basquiat's Print Market Performance In 2023?

In 2023, Basquiat's print market followed a familiar trend, experiencing an 18% decline in sales value to £2.4 million (hammer) compared to the previous year, despite achieving a record-breaking number of lots sold at 34. However, after Basquiat’s peak performance in print sales value in 2020, the significant fluctuations observed annually are beginning to stabilise, suggesting sustained interest in his print market and potentially indicating a future increase in sales value. The average selling price (ASP) for Basquiat’s prints in 2023 stood at £71,158.

Jean-Michel Basquiat Average Selling Price

Basquiat Average Selling Price 2017 - 2023 by MyArtBroker 2024Basquiat Average Selling Price 2017 - 2023 © MyArtBroker 2024

In 2017 and 2018, there was a 56% increase in the ASP influenced by the significant increase in the sales value and lots sold in 2018. The following five years, from 2019 to 2023, the ASP in Basquiat’s print market experienced significant fluctuations, with higher figures in sales value corresponding to a lower number of lots sold and vice versa, as expected. However, 2023 presented a unique scenario for Basquiat's print market. Despite a considerable influx of posthumous prints and signed trophy works, the ASP reached £71,158. Although this figure is notably lower than the 2022 ASP, it's essential to consider that the 2022 ASP was influenced by only 12 sold works. In contrast, 2023 experienced a record number of lots sold, 34, over the seven-year period, and the 2023 ASP reflects a 46% increase compared to the ASP in 2021, even with just two fewer sales indicating an increase in value.

Jean-Michel Basquiat's Most Popular Print Series

Basquiat Trending Print Series by Sales value In 2023 by MyArtBroker 2024Basquiat Trending Print Series by Sales Value In 2023 © MyArtBroker 2024

Top Performing Print Series In Basquiat's 2023 Print Market

The chart illustrated above showcases Basquiat's print market performance in 2023, focusing on sales value. Basquiat's print market exhibits a diverse array of prints, encompassing those signed by the artist himself, as well as posthumous productions signed by his estate. Additionally, there are prints that do not belong to any specific series.

Basquiat Signed Prints

Basquiat's signed edition print series are rare and typically small-scale, with limited production ranging from 13 to 45 copies. Among these collections, Anatomy Studies stands out, comprising four prints, three of which are signed editions. These include Academic Study Of The Male Figure, Back Of The Neck and Da Vinci, Leg Of A Dog. Back of The Neck has appeared multiple times on the public market, typically emerging only once every other year, yet consistently propelling Basquiat’s yearly print market sales value to remarkable heights. Most recently, in 2023, Back Of The Neck was auctioned at William Doyle in New York, fetching a sale price of £922,837 (with fees), contributing 31% to Basquiat’s 2023 print market.

Anatomy also represents a signed series comprising 18 prints, each limited to an edition of 18 and originating in 1982. These prints were trending on the market in 2023, seeing five successful sales. Although their smaller dimensions result in prices spanning from £11,000 to £50,000 (with fees), their scarcity and authentic embodiment of the artist’s hand enhance their value, making them rare and lucrative additions for collectors seeking to diversify their portfolios at a more accessible level.

Basquiat Estate Releases

Untitled is an estate released collection comprising four posthumously produced prints. Produced in 2001, these prints bear the signature of Gerard Basquiat, who oversaw the estate until his passing, at which point Basquiat’s sisters, Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux, assumed control. The early posthumous production likely enhances the value of these prints and interest within the market. Other posthumous Basquiat print series include Hollywood Africans (1 work), Daros Suite (9 works), and Jawbone Of An Ass (1 work).


Jean-Michel Basquiat Editioned Prints Signed And Unsigned

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Basquiat Signed/Unsigned Print Market Performance

The chart above presents a comparison between Basquiat's signed editioned prints and his unsigned (estate-produced) editioned prints. Following Basquiat's passing in 1988, management of his estate was undertaken by his father, Gerard Basquiat, until his own passing in 2013. Subsequently, control of the estate transitioned to Basquiat's sisters, Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux. The Basquiat Estate, in collaboration with Pace Prints, released its initial editioned print in 2001, with announcements typically made through Instagram. Authorised print sets, totalling nine, have since been commissioned by the estate, featuring works by the late artist in editions typically ranging from 60 to 85, including Artist Proofs and Hors commerce.

Estate-produced prints derive from Basquiat's original paintings. Compared to signed prints, these estate-produced works generally attain sales values that are approximately half or lower. However, there has been a notable increase in the number of editioned prints released by Basquiat's estate that have entered the market, resulting in record-breaking lots sold in 2023. This trend suggests a growing appreciation and demand for estate-produced prints, providing enthusiasts with the opportunity to acquire an editioned print associated with the artist and authenticated by his estate.

Other estate produced prints that don't belong to a particular series or collections include 50 Cent Piece, A Panel Of Experts, Cabeza, Charles The First, Flash In Naples, Flexible, King Brand, Rome Pays Off and others.


Basquiat Average Selling Price Signed/Unsigned Prints by MyArtBroker 2024Basquiat Average Selling Price Signed/Unsigned Prints © MyArtBroker 2024

Both prints bearing Basquiat's signature and those issued by his estate contribute to Basquiat’s overall print market performance. Particularly noteworthy are the posthumous editions, which offer avenues of opportunity within the relatively constrained Basquiat print market, marked by his untimely passing. The heightened ASPs of signed prints, evident in 2018, 2020, and 2021, are influenced by the presence of high-value signed lots produced in extremely limited editions. Meanwhile, the ASP of unsigned editions, although lower, exhibits consistency and is characterised by a higher volume of sales. When evaluating art investments and potential returns, the market's consistent performance holds significant value. In 2023, the ASP of estate editioned prints reached a record level, marking a 56% increase from the previous year, indicative of heightened value and demand among collectors and investors.

Buying With MyArtBroker's Live Trading Floor

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The Most In-Demand Basquiat Prints Within Our Network


The most sought-after Basquiat prints on our live trading floor encompass both signed and unsigned editions. Among the coveted signed prints is Back Of The Neck, valued at £720,000 - £1,080,000. Works from the Anatomy series, such as Anatomy, Right Clavicle and Thyroid, have also garnered significant attention, reflecting their market popularity during the spring and summer of 2023. Additionally, Flexible has emerged as a highly desired print, becoming the most sought-after and widely circulated estate-released print in Basquiat’s 2023 print market. With multiple appearances and consecutive record-breaking sales, it achieved an impressive £221,776 with fees at Sotheby's Singapore, underscoring the broad appeal and investment potential inherent in Basquiat's works. This print also ranks among the most investable prints on our MAB100 print market index.

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Comparative Blue Chip Market Performance 2017 - 2023

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Seven Blue Chip Artists Markets To Know

When comparing the demand for Basquiat's works to that of other artists, it becomes apparent that the ASP tends to be higher. This disparity can be attributed to the notably lower volume of lots sold in his case compared to other artists. However, this doesn't imply that Basquiat prints are inherently more or less valuable than those of other artists. Nor does it suggest heightened or a lack of superiority as an investment worthy artist. Rather, the distinction lies in nuanced factors within the print market and the availability of Basquiat prints and underscores the rarity of his works in the market, which contributes to their level of liquidity and investment potential.

For first-time investors, the primary recommendation is always to select something they genuinely appreciate. If any of these artists resonate with your preferences, they can all be considered wise investment choices for various reasons. Basquiat's appeal lies in his rarity and the growing interest in estate-released prints associated with his name. If we observe a continued circulation of these works in the 2024 art market, we may anticipate the ASP in Basquiat’s market to gradually align with that of other blue chip artists and exhibit greater consistency.

Basquiat Print Market Price Distribution

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Where To Start When Looking To Buy A Basquiat Print?

The breakdown of Basquiat's print market performance in 2023 reveals a diverse pricing distribution, reflecting both high-end and entry-level segments. Works valued above £500,000 and those priced below £10,000 each constitute 5% of his market share. The top tier, comprising prints priced £500,000 and above, is primarily represented by Back of the Neck (signed), fetching £922,837 with fees in November 2023. Typically, this category features Basquiat’s signed prints, although the value of estate-released editions could increase in the future. Prints priced between £100,000 and £500,000, including the renowned estate release print Flexible, garnered significant attention in the 2023 art market and set new auction records, hinting at sustained demand in 2024. The largest segment, constituting 65% of Basquiat's market share, encompasses works priced between £50,000 and £100,000. This category features popular estate-released prints like Flexible, Hollywood Africans, Cabeza, and Head, all of which experienced heightened popularity in 2023.

Listen to MyArtBroker's, A Buyer's Guide To Jean-Michel Basquiat

Basquiat Print Works Below £50,000

In Basquiat's print market, prints priced below £50,000 comprised 20% of his market share based on lots sold in 2023. Within the price range of £10,000 to £50,000, one can find a variety of estate release prints alongside signed works from Basquiat's Anatomy series. While individual prints from this series are typically valued between £15,000 to £20,000, there were instances in 2023 where sets of two, three, or four prints were sold for £30,000 to £50,000 (including fees), highlighting the rarity of acquiring these works as a complete set.

Securing the desired print at the right price necessitates adept navigation of market dynamics and an understanding of trending works. Collaborating with advisors, such as MyArtBroker, can facilitate the acquisition of prints at fair market value, offering transparency beyond the standard practices of auction houses.

BasquiatTop Ten Selling Print Works In 2023 by MyArtBroker 2024BasquiatTop Ten Selling Print Works In 2023 © MyArtBroker 2024

The Prints Most In-Demand Basquiat Prints from Investors

In Basquiat’s print market, two specific works have garnered heightened demand among investors and have significantly influenced the overall sales value of Basquiat’s print market year after year. Back of the Neck and Untitled, both created in 1983, are particularly sought after by investors. These prints consistently achieve million-dollar prices at auctions due to their exceptional rarity and consistent value appreciation over the years. These works usually appear on the public market only once a year, if at all. For those seeking to acquire these rare pieces, exploring private sales channels like MyArtBroker could prove to be a viable option, as we possess the network to connect potential buyers or sellers of these prints.

Although not directly signed by the artist, these prints played a crucial role in providing collectors with the opportunity to own a work attributed to Basquiat. This strategy significantly expanded the reach of his market, attracting new collectors and investors and proving to be incredibly lucrative for his estate.

Basquiat’s Anatomy series has also performed well at auctions, underscoring the demand for signed prints even among smaller-scale collectors. However, the standout feature of Basquiat’s print market in 2023 was the heightened interest in estate release prints. Although not directly signed by the artist, these prints played a crucial role in providing collectors with the opportunity to own a work attributed to Basquiat. This strategy significantly expanded the reach of his market, attracting new collectors and investors and proving to be incredibly lucrative for his estate.

Listen to MyArtBroker's Collections, Anatomy: Jean-Michel Basquiat

Liquidity of Basquiat Print Works

In the art market, liquidity refers to the ease and speed with which artworks can be bought and sold for profit. It encompasses various factors that contribute to the dynamic nature of art transactions. Within Basquiat’s market, signed prints stand out as arguably the most liquid artworks. These prints carry the actual mark of the artist and provide an inherent level of authentication, which is crucial given the prevalence of counterfeits in Basquiat’s print market. Authenticity plays a significant role in liquidity, as buyers seek assurance in the provenance of the artwork.

However, estate-produced prints also offer a level of authentication, being stamped and signed by members of the estate. While they may not carry the same level of authenticity as signed prints by the artist himself, they still provide an alternative sense of assurance. Nevertheless, the art market is influenced by taste, trends, and shifting preferences. Currently, posthumous Basquiat prints are trending and have demonstrated resilience and appreciation in the art market. However, the long-term market foundation for estate-signed prints is yet to be solidified, making them slightly less liquid compared to their signed counterparts. Anticipating sustained demand for these works requires careful consideration of market dynamics and trends.


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Recent Market Performance And Current Opportunities

In 2023, nearly half of Basquiat's market activity, measured by lots sold, originated from the United States, with just over a quarter attributed to the United Kingdom. While we've witnessed various European regions emerging as viable trading hubs for blue chip art in other artists' markets, the remainder of Basquiat's print market is primarily concentrated in Asian countries, with Germany being the exception. Far from being a cause for concern, this distribution underscores the scarcity of Basquiat's prints and their limited availability outside certain regions. The expansion of Basquiat's market influence from the United States and the United Kingdom into Asia signifies the growing demand for his work and his increasing presence in the competitive Asian art market.

What Makes A Basquiat Print Desireable?

Investing Basquiat's prints is a compelling opportunity driven by their cultural significance, historical importance, and rarity. As a prominent figure in contemporary art, Basquiat's prints encapsulate his unique fusion of street art, graffiti, and neo-expressionism, providing a window into the vibrant cultural landscape of the 1980s while poignantly addressing critical social and political themes regarding racial representation. Whether acquired during his lifetime or posthumously from his estate, these prints are not only coveted for their scarcity but also for their direct connection to pivotal periods in the artist's career. This investment journey becomes a meaningful engagement with the legacy of an influential artist, offering the potential for substantial returns in the ever-evolving art market.

Jean-Michel Basquiat Top Selling prints

1.

Back Of The Neck

Back Of The Neck (1983) showcases large, distorted impressions of a muscular body in bold colours against a black background. In contrast to Basquiat's Anatomy series, which featured isolated and labeled body parts, this artwork combines various body parts, resulting in an unsettling fusion, such as a neck merging with an arm, each drawn disproportionately. This piece garnered widespread acclaim in 2023. It reappeared in Q4 at Williams Doyle in New York, marking its first appearance since 2021 and establishing a new auction record for this print. It ranked as Basquiat's top-selling print work in 2023, selling for £922,837.

2.

Flexible

Flexible (2016), portrays a West African griot, reflecting Basquiat's profound cultural ties. This figure, symbolising a tribal storyteller, showcases the artist's West African heritage, deepened by his visit to the region in 1986. Based on a wooden painting from Basquiat's studio, it exemplifies his innovative use of materials. Limited to 85 editions, signed by Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux, administrators of his estate, this print has become highly coveted. In 2023, a hors commerce version achieved significant success, fetching £221,776 (with fees) at Sotheby's in Singapore, setting an auction record and becoming second among Basquiat's top-selling print for 2023.

3.

Daros Suite

The Daros Suite prints, created after Basquiat's passing, are adapted from his series, The Daros Suite of Thirty-Two Drawings. These artworks capture Basquiat's signature chaos and intensity, portraying social and political contradictions. The imagery in these prints holds significance, representing icons recurrent in Basquiat's body of work. The complete set of four screenprints, part of a 50-edition series, is signed by administrators of Basquiat's estate. Daros Suite (2017), the complete set, has made a single appearance in the secondary market in 2023. This sale marked it as Basquiat's third top-selling print, underlining the appeal of his posthumous works.

4.

Cabeza

Cabeza (2004) is another posthumous production. This unsigned print features a solitary figure set against a yellow-orange background portraying both internal and external organs. The word “Aopkhes” is inscribed across the figure's chest, and a drawn circle hints at an Adam's apple. The figure wears a startled expression, a common theme in Basquiat's portraits. Cabeza echoes the iconic Dos Cabezas (1982) painting, a contemporary portrait with friend and contemporary Andy Warhol. Some editions of this work are signed by Gerhard Basquiat, the executor of Jean-Michel Basquiat Estate. Despite being unsigned, this version ranked as the fourth highest-selling print in Basquiat's 2023 top print sales, fetching £82,550 (with fees) at Sotheby's in September. This sale underscores the strong demand for both signed and unsigned versions of Basquiat's work.

5.

Per Capita

Per Capita (2001), featuring a prominent blue-outlined crown against a red backdrop with the word “ASBESTOS” enclosed in a red square, was created in 2001 by Basquiat's estate. This artwork, which has been rarely seen in the market, made a notable return at SBI Art Auctions in October in Tokyo. It achieved a remarkable sale of £85,558, marking its first appearance in the market since 2019 and setting a new auction record.

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