The highly anticipated work by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Warrior fetched HK$323.6m (US$41.7m) at Christie’s Hong Kong tonight. It is now the most valuable Western artwork auctioned off in Asia, eclipsing the record of Gerhard Richter's HK$214m abstract.
Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) | Warrior
Painted in 1982
Signed and dated “Jean-Michel Basquiat 1982” (on the reverse)
Acrylic, oil stick and spray paint on wood panel
Dimensions: 183 x 122 cm
- Galerie Enrico Navarra, Paris
- Mugrabi Collection, New York
- Hamiltons Gallery, London
- Anon. sale; Sotheby's, New York, November 9, 2005, lot 42
- Private collection, Milan
- Anon. sale; Sotheby's, London, June 21, 2007, lot 28
- Private collection
- Anon. sale; Sotheby’s, London, June 26, 2012, lot 49
- Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Estimate: HK$240,000,000 - 320,000,000
Hammer price: HK$280,000,000
Price realized: HK$323,600,000 (US$41,700,000)
Wielding the gavel tonight from London, was Jussi Pylkännen. He started the single-lot sale at HK$160m and the abstract painting immediately elicited a cross-continent bidding war. Remaining active throughout the proceedings were a New York client with Alex Rotter (Chairman of Post-War & Contemporary Art, Christie's New York) and another with Jacky Ho (Head of Evening Sale, 20th / 21st Century Art, Christie’s Asia Pacific). After nine bids in total, the star lot was hammered down at a record-breaking HK$280m and sold to Ho's client at HK$323.6m (US$41.7m) with premium.
(Lower right) Jacky Ho, Head of Evening Sale, 20th / 21st Century Art, Christie’s Asia Pacific placed the winning bid of HK$280m.
The lot carried a third-party guarantee, which sured up tonight’s offering. Estimated at HK$240m to HK$320m (US$31m to US$41m), Warrior was last seen at auction in 2012, when it realized £5.6m (US$8.7m). With the record-breaking result tonight, the painting witnessed an almost five times increase in nine years.
Western artworks have shown strong resilience in the Asian market in recent years, buoyed by the high-caliber works auctioned off in Hong Kong. Prior to this sale, it was Sotheby’s Hong Kong that secured the top three most expensive Western artwork publicly sold in Asia. Tonight’s record means Christie’s Hong Kong has outpaced its rival, with the current records as follows:
- Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) | Warrior, HK$323,600,000
- Gerhard Richter (b.1932) | Abstraktes Bild (649-2), HK$214,631,000
- KAWS (b.1974) | THE KAWS ALBUM, HK$115,966,000
Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild (649-2), sold for HK$215m (US$27.7m) in October 2020, Sotheby’s Hong Kong
The present work by Basquiat, measuring 183 by 122 cm, depicts a courageous warrior in full length, with his silver sword unsheathed and barreling his penetrating eyes directly towards the viewer.
The work was last on view in public in a New York retrospective in 2019, alongside an untitled painting, which was sold for US$110.5m - the previous record for the artist. Both paintings were created in 1982, during the pinnacle of Basquiat’s career when his artistic language reached maturity.
The auction house describes the work as a “semi-autobiographical” piece. As a Haitian and Puerto Rican descent, Basquiat was highly aware of the lack of representation of African American population in art history. Through much combative energy, the powerful work confronts the issue of inequality in the sociopolitical environment.
Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988), the most expensive American artist in history
Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who acquired the 1982 untitled painting of a skull for US$110.5m, once revealed his plan to take the phenomenal work to the Moon as the first-ever lunar tourist
While Basquiat was never hesitant to explore the themes of race and African American culture, the predominant themes proved to resonate with Asian collectors as much as they do with their Western counterparts.
“Warrior speaks to many. From the striking use of colors to composition, the painting bears much intensity as Basquiat’s artistic output reached its full potential in 1982, when this stunning work was created.” said Jacky Ho, Head of Evening Sale, 20th / 21st Century Art, Christie’s Asia Pacific.
Installation view of Warrior (right), a New York retrospective hosted by The Brant Foundation Art Study Center in 2019
“We feel like this particular work stands out the most during his works created during 1981 to 1985. They are also a testament to the everlasting sense of courage that truly transcends time, especially when we are all warriors nowadays, in face of the pandemic,” Ho said.
Jean-Michel Basquiat was first known for his spray painted crowns and scribbles in the streets of New York. He was a subversive graffiti artist and street poet, until he rose to stardom in the 1980s. The artist died of a drug overdose at his studio, at the age of 27.
Auction house: Christie’s Hong Kong
Sale: We Are All Warriors – The Basquiat Auction
Sale date: March 23, 2021
Lot offered: 1
Lot sold: 1
Sale by lot: 100%
Sale total: HK$ 323,600,000 (US$41,700,000)