Jean-Michel Basquiat's Painting Sells for More Than $110 Million

May 19, 2017

Jean-Michel Basquiat's painting sells for big bucks at Sotheby's
Credit Sotheby's and 2017 Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s powerful 1982 painting of a skull brought $110.5 million at Sotheby’s yesterday, to become the sixth most expensive work ever sold at auction.  There were gasps in the crowd when the auction ended.  According to various reports, only 10 other works have broken the $100 million mark.

The painting, “Untitled," was forged from oil stick and spray paint and had been expected to sell for $60 million.  The New York Times reported at least four bidders on the phones and in the room went way beyond that price tag.

Ira Denmark and Calvin Levels came to WBGO last year to talk about Level's new play "Collaboration: Warhol and Basquiat"
Credit Doug Doyle for WBGO

You can learn much more about Basquiat's work and his love of jazz from a recent play from Calvin Levels titled "Collaboration: Warhol & Basquiat.  The play ran in December of last year at the HERE Arts Center in Soho.

Levels played Jean-Michel Basquiat and veteran actor Ira Denmark played legendary artist Andy Warhol.

Levels talked about the importance of Basquiat's art.

"What we lost was this this great philosophical mind and truth teller.  In a way he reminds me of James Baldwin, you know where he would see that truth and nothing would hold him back from telling the truth.  And you see it in Jean's work with the African American heritage."

Levels wanted to show Jean-Michel's appreciation for jazz in this play.

"He loved jazz, bebop was his favorite of all the jazz music, and I think he got that from his father.  His father used to play jazz around the house, a brownstone in Brooklyn.  He (Jean-Michel) would play bepop when he painted and would dance around to Miles (Davis) and Diz (Dizzy Gillespie) and Charlie Parker was one of his favorites."

Click above to hear the Doug Doyle's entire 2016 interview with Levels and Denmark.