Despite art market slowdown, Basquiat still sets records

Yusaku Maezawa and "Untitled" by Basquiat
Yusaku Maezawa and “Untitled” by Basquiat

The art market has cold dramatically of late, with auction sales slipping at both Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Nevertheless, here and there records are still being set.

At Christie’s post-war and Contemporary evening sale on Tuesday night “Untitled” by Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for $57.3 million, a record for the artist. The buyer was Yusaku Maezawa, the 40-year-old founder of a Japanese online retailer, according to Bloomberg. Maezawa purchased four other works totaling $81.4 million and has said that he plans to open a museum in Chiba outside Tokyo.


A photo posted by Yusaku Maezawa (@yusaku2020) on

But despite a handful of records (six auction records were set in total) Christie’s sale brought in only $318.4 million — a 52 percent decline from a similar sale last year.

The day before, Sotheby’s had an even more disastrous evening. Their major semi-annual Impressionist and Modern evening sale sold $144 million in art. That is the worst performance for that sale in New York City since 2009, according to Bloomberg. Only 66 percent of the lots sold.

“We had a big challenge because of what happened last night,” Brett Gorvy, Christie’s global head of postwar and contemporary art, told Bloomberg referring to the failed Sotheby’s auction. “I came to work today and told the team that our job is to get the sell-through rate of 85 percent or higher.”

Fifty-two of the 60 lots sold at the Christie’s sale for an 87 percent success rate.