Billionaires are gobbling up Basquiats like there is no tomorrow

“Untitled” (1982) by Jean-Michel Basquiat,
“Untitled” (1982) by Jean-Michel Basquiat

The global art market has more than tripled in value since 2003, pushing auction sale prices sky high. And right now, no artist is hotter than Jean-Michel Basquiat.

In May, “Untitled” by Basquiat sold for $57.3 million, setting a short-lived record for the artist’s work. But soon after, the same Japanese collector dropped another $110.5 million on a different Basquiat.

And so naturally, at this year’s Art Basel, Basquiat was the name of the game. Some 90 private jets landed in the small Swiss town carrying billionaires like Steve Cohen, Leon Black, Eli Broad and Dmitry Rybolovlev. There’s no word on whether Ian Schrager, who once gave away a Basquiat, was among them.

La Hara by BasquiatSource: Christie’s
La Hara by Basquiat Source: Christie’s

For their collecting pleasure, some nine works by Basquiat were brought to the fair by galleries, according to Bloomberg.

“People realize this is a moment to cash in on Basquiat,” Phyllis Hattis, a New York private dealer told Bloomberg.

Basquiat’s “Three Delegates” sold in the first hour on Tuesday at Acquavella Galleries, Bloomberg reports. The piece was asking $18 million. And his 1982 piece “Baby Boom” from 1982 may have also found a buyer. Levy Gorvy gallery was asking $32 million for the work owned by newsprint magnate Peter Brant.

“The market feels stronger,” Russian collector Maria Baibakova said. “Many things I wanted to buy were already sold.”