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Untitled, a painting by illustrious American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, will be up for auction at Phillips’ in New York City on 18 May 2022, the auction house announced in a statement.

For the sale, Phillips joined hands with art collector Yusaku Maezawa who had Untitled in his collection for six years.

The auction house also said that it will accept cryptocurrency, either Bitcoin or Ethereum, for the artwork.

What to know about Untitled

Influenced by Pablo Picasso

The painting was made in 1982. It measures more than 16 feet in width and eight feet in height and has an estimated value of USD 70 million.

According to Phillips, the horizontal format of the artwork is “likely a nod to Pablo Picasso’s masterwork Guernica”. Basquiat had seen Picasso’s work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York as a child and stated that it had left an impression on him.

The painting shows a black skull as a demonic figure with horns and blood red paint dripping from them.

“Rising against a fiery expanse of gestural colour evoking Abstract Expressionism, the subject is a distinct contrast to Basquiat’s depictions of martyrdom and sainthood and embodies his interest in the duality of heaven and hell,” Phillips described the painting in a statement.

Untitled will be up for auction in the Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art. Before the sale, it will be displayed in London, Los Angeles and Taipei.

The artwork was on the cover of the artist’s 1996 catalogue raisonné and featured as a centrepiece in several of his major retrospectives.

Why Maezawa is giving up the artwork for auction

Yusaku Maezawa
Maezawa posing next to a different Basquiat painting. (Image credit: 前澤友作/@yousuck2020/Twitter)

Commenting on the auction, Maezawa said, “I believe that art collections are something that should always continue to grow and evolve as the owner does. I also believe that it should be shared so that it can be a part of everyone’s lives.”

Maezawa, who is also an entrepreneur, added that he is planning to create a museum to exhibit his art collection.

Phillips’ Global Chairwoman Cheyenne Westphal pointed out that Basquiat had six solo shows around the world at the age of 21 in 1982. Westphal thus called the year an “inflection point in his meteoric rise to international fame.”

Untitled is among Basquiat’s most ambitious and celebrated works, resonating deeply with collectors of across all backgrounds and interests,” she said.

Phillips’ President, Americas, Jean-Paul Engelen, said, “Seldom in the auction world are you fortunate enough to see an artwork whose dynamism matches that of its artist and collector. And that is exactly what we have here.”

(Main and Featured images: Phillips)

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