It was an exciting night in New York City on May 18th, 2017, when the late Jean-Michel Basquiat made headlines once more.
At the Contemporary Art Evening Auction, his Untitled from 1982 sold for a whopping $110,487,500, becoming the sixth most expensive artwork ever sold at auction at the time.
The painting’s buyer, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, unveiled himself on social media, as it often happens in today’s day and age.
Now, acting on his promise to make art more accessible to a wider audience, he lent the work to the Brooklyn Museum for its first ever public appearance within such cultural institutions. Under the title One Basquiat, the exhibition marks the start of a world tour before returning to a facility that Mr. Maesawa is building in Chiba, Japan.
Measuring almost two meters in height and width, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled highlights the year 1982, which proved to be pivotal in the short, yet incredible career of this marvelous artist.
After covering the abandoned street walls with graffiti under the pseudonym SAMO in the late-1970s, Basquiat transferred his talent to canvas, losing not one bit of his unique style, passion and determination; his marks, colors and words painted with acrylic, oilstick and spraypaint still have the power to echo in the mind of the viewer, reminding of his radical return to figurative painting in an immediate, visceral, unprecedented manner.
From the bold, scrawled, skull-like head against a vibrant blue background, crowned in a typical Basquiat way, to the crossed out tic-tac-toe grid and overpainted letters and hieroglyphs, Untitled comes as a result of an emotive, shattering force that can only be felt while standing in front of the works by this exceptional prodigy.
いつも大変お世話になっているヤマト運輸の皆様と、財団のメンバーと、最後に写真撮りました。しばらくこのバスキアともお別れです。世界中でたくさんの人に愛され、たくさんの人の心を動かし、また無事に日本に戻ってきてくれることを心待ちにしてます。 Good-bye for a while my Basquiat. I am hoping that you will be loved by people all over the world and move the hearts of people around the world. See you again soon. Have a good trip! #JeanMichelBasquiat #worldtour #imissyou
This exhibition represents the latest of many connections between Basquiat and the borough. The artist was born at Brooklyn Hospital in 1960 and was raised in the neighborhoods of the Park Slope, East Flatbush and Boerum Hill. His mother also enrolled him as a Junior Member of the Brooklyn Museum when he was only six years old.
In 2005, the Museum also organized a comprehensive retrospective of his work, and a decade later, the critically acclaimed presentation Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks.
Commenting on the exhibition, Mr. Maezawa said:
I am thrilled to be sending Basquiat’s masterpiece home to Brooklyn. It is my hope that through the exhibition and extensive programming accompanying it, the young people of the borough will be inspired by their local hero, just as he has inspired so many of us around the world.
One Basquiat will be on view in the Brooklyn Museum’s Robert E. Blum Gallery from January 26th through March 11th, 2018. It is organized by Eugenie Tsai, John and Barbara Vogelstein Senior Curator of Contemporary Art.
The show will also be accompanied by an extensive education program, which includes a series of school visits and the museum’s annual observance of Black History Month in February, of which the painting will be the centerpiece.
Featured image: Jean-Michel Basquiat - Untitled, 1982. Acrylic, spray paint, and oil stick on canvas, 721⁄8 x 681⁄8 in. (183.2 x 173 cm). Collection of Yusaku Maezawa. © Estate of Jean- Michel Basquiat, Licensed by Artestar, New York.