An untitled Jean-Michel Basquiat painting of a skull sold for $110.5 million at a contemporary art sale at Sotheby's Thursday night in New York, the highest price ever paid at auction for a piece by an American artist.
In 1984, the painting was purchased by the late art collectors Jerry and Emily Spiegel for $19,000. The 1982 work had a pre-sale estimate of more than $60 million, and bidding began at $57 million. A 10-minute bidding war between three parties ensued, and the artwork was ultimately purchased by Japanese art collector and entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa.
"I remember astounding the art world back in the 1980s when I set an auction record for Basquiat at $99,000," art dealer and Basquiat friend Jeffrey Deitch told Bloomberg. "All of us, Jean-Michel's friends, we totally believed in his genius. I always thought he would be one day in the legion of Picasso, Bacon, and Van Gogh. The work has that iconic quality. His appeal is real." Basquiat died in 1988 of a heroin overdose at the age of 27.