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Ever since Yusaku Maezawa reset the Basquiat market twice with the purchases of Untitled (Devil) for $48.8m and then the Untitled (Head) for $110m there has been a breathless anticipation of a an explosion in the broader Basquiat market. Every auction and art fair is scrutinized for evidence of the Basquiat boom trickling down from the top.
So far, the market is still waiting. Too be sure, there have been some very good sales at auction to support the idea. Ten different works were sold at auction at prices ranging from $2.4m to $10.9m, though they were often hammered down to third-party guarantors or bids at or below the low estimate. This week, we got a few more clues as to what’s going on in the Basquiat market.
The Mugrabi family’s show of Basquiat works in Sao Paulo, Brazil has four different works that the family has bought at auction in the past 2-3 years. One is a very large and expensive work being sold by Tony Shafrazi, The FieldNext to the Other Road that they bought for $37m in 2015. There’s some indication that the family didn’t intend to be the winning bidder on the work from the later struggle with Christie’s over payment.
They might have been lukewarm about the purchase at the time but they certainly seem to have gotten religion in the following seasons.
n February of 2016, they bought the work on paper Head of a Madman for $8.9m, a discount from the previous sale to Indonesian playboy Jho Low for $12m. (Update: We were mistaken that Head of a Madman was included in the Sao Paulo show. It was bought by the Nahmad family as this Instagram posts shows.)
In May of 2017, the family picked up Antar for $3.5m. In October, Back of the Neck got snapped up in London for a bargain £452k. Flash in Naples from 1983 was bought for $8.1m last November. All four of these works are on display in Brazil as featured works in the Mugrabi collection of Basquiats.
There are, of course, a number of other works from the artist in the show that the family acquired privately. The family is avidly engrossing Basquiat works in the middle market below $10m. At the upper end, they seem to be unloading works above $20m if the rumors that Christie’s had guaranteed a pricey work at that level for one of the few failures in the November sale.
From the evidence of this show, we can see that the Mugrabis are putting their money behind the expectations game with Basquiat. The more their buying suggests the middle market still hasn’t gained organic growth and momentum. When it does, they’ll try to step out.