New York, May 12, 2021 — Jean-Michel Basquiat’s painting In this Case sold for US$93.1 million in an auction yesterday at Christie’s in New York, the second-highest price paid for a work by the late artist.
The 1983 painting, which depicts a skull on a red background, sold for US$81 million, but with fees and commissions the final price came to US$93.1 million, well above the estimate of US$50 million.
It was another skull, Untitled, that set the record for the most expensive by Basquiat (1960-1988), which went for US$110.5 million in May 2017 at Sotheby’s in New York.
In This Case reprises two dominant themes in Basquiat’s work, anatomy and representation of African-American characters.
In a sign of Basquiat’s growing status in the art world, the same canvas was sold in November 2002 for just US$999,500, barely more than a hundredth of the price paid on Tuesday.
With the exception of New York-based Basquiat, African American painters have long been undervalued by collectors and underrepresented in museums.
In recent years, the market has started a process of re-evaluating many of them. Yesterday, Christie’s had presented several Black artists as part of its big spring sale.
A Nina Chanel Abney work sold for US$990,000, a Jordan Casteel went for US$687,500 and a Rashid Johnson fetched US$1.95 million.
A work by British artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye was sold for US$1.95 million and a piece by Ghanaian sculptor El Anatsui went under the hammer for US$1.95 million, all of them setting new records.