Last night’s $110m sale of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s untitled work consigned by the Siegel family will overshadow much of the market reporting today. It probably should. The sale was as dramatic as it was unexpected.
At least for today, the Contemporary art market will be in shock. “All those people who owned Basquiats and sold, or never bought,” commented one active collector just after the gavel fell, “are sick.”
In the lobby of Sotheby’s saleroom as the later lots were being knocked down, one advisor started doing the calculus on the Basquiat he is in the midst of selling for a client. Should he capitalize on the frenzy surrounding the artist and get his sale concluded? Raise his asking price? Or hold on longer for the “inevitable” rise in Basquiat values?
Trying to make sense of the sale for reporters, old school Basquiat collector Larry Warsh said that although the price was “irrational” the question was whether the irrational had now become the norm.
These are questions evryone buying and selling Basquiat will wrestle with in the coming months. But one issue that looms over the Basquiat market is the fact that the two top public prices were paid by the same collector. There’s a chance that the market for Basquiat works over $50m is only Mr. Maezawa.
Obvioulsy, Maezawa didn’t bid the work to $110m by himself. (Though he is reputed to be more than willing to pay whatever price it takes to get the works of art that he wants. Kenny Schachter has written that Mark Grotjahn sold a triptych of works to the collector directly for $45m.)
During the bidding, Nicholas Maclean kept such a low profile that the room could not identify his bidding for much of the 10 minute battle. His quick responses through so many of the bids in the $70m and $80m range suggest a client who had already set his price well above the estimates. So there’s definitely at least one other person who believes this Basquiat was worth this price.