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Jean-Michel Basquiat's paintings from golden years to be auctioned at Phillips

By Park Yuna

Published : April 12, 2024 - 18:58

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"Untitled (ELMAR)" by Jean-Michel Basquiat (Francesco Pellizzi)

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s three paintings -- created in the transition from street artist to gallery success -- will be put up for auctions in May at Philips in Hong Kong and New York, and are worth as much as $87 million in total.

The paintings have been unprecedentedly shown at auction events.

Formerly collected by Francesco Pellizzi and the Pellizzi Family, the paintings will be shown at the auctioneer’s major evening sales in May in the two cities. Pellizzi is co-founder and editor of the journal Res, Anthropology and Aesthetics, published by the Peabody at Harvard and Chicago University Press.

The paintings “Untitled (ELMAR)” created in 1982, and “Untitled (Portrait of a Famous Ballplayer),” created in 1981, will be sold in New York on May 14 while “Native Carrying Some Guns, Bibles, Amorites ­­on Safari” from 1982 will be offered two weeks later in Hong Kong on May 31.

“Untitled (ELMAR)” of which the estimated price is set at $40 million to $60 million was acquired by the Pellizzi Family just two years after the painting was finished. The monumental work is known as a cornerstone of Basquiat's golden year, during which he transitioned from street art to gallery success.

"Untitled (Portrait of a Famous Ballplayer)" by Jean-Michel Basquiat (Francesco Pellizzi)

Prior to the auction, the three works will be unveiled in New York for an exhibition open from 8-14 April, followed by a tour to Los Angeles from 23-25 April, marking the last time that they will be on display together, according to the auctioneer.

“Phillips is proud to have become the house of Basquiat over the past decade. An inspired collector, Mr. Pellizzi acquired timeless works that underscore Basquiat's enduring significance and artistic vision, as they continue to inspire and provoke thought forty years later,” said Robert Manley, deputy chairman and worldwide co-head of the department at Phillips.

In 2022, Phillips sold Basquiat’s painting “Untitled” painted in 1982, from the collection of Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa, with the buyer also being a private collector in Asia.

In the painting “Native Carrying Some Guns, Bibles, Amorites on Safari,” a Black figure dominates the canvas with its arms raised, confronting a colonial poacher. Through a direct portrayal and the incorporation of text, Basquiat critiques colonial commerce, encapsulating his broader themes of colonization, commercialization, and African American history. The painting is estimated to be sold between $12 million to $18 million.

“Native Carrying Some Guns, Bibles, Amorites ­­on Safari” by Jean-Michel Basquiat (Francesco Pellizzi) “Native Carrying Some Guns, Bibles, Amorites ­­on Safari” by Jean-Michel Basquiat (Francesco Pellizzi)

Another painting “Untitled (Portrait of a Famous Ballplayer)” was exhibited at the "Jean-Michel Basquiat Memorial Exhibition," which opened in December 1988 at Annina Nosei Gallery, just a few months after the artist's passing and coinciding with what would have been his 28th birthday. The painting’s estimated price is $6.5 million to $8.5 million.