US$12.6 million Basquiat painting to lead Christie’s Shanghai Evening Sale

In the Asian Art market, the appetite for Western Modern and Contemporary Art masterpieces in recent years have proliferated in Hong Kong – setting record prices in auction sales. This trend has spread northwards into mainland China.

On 1 March, Christie's will kick off the 20/21 Shanghai to London Sales series in Shanghai – connecting major art centres of the East and the West. The Shanghai part of the event will be held at Christie's new art space at the iconic Bund One – the first live auction in Shanghai since the pandemic. During the sale, Western Masters such as Basquiat and Picasso will be showcased.

The leading lot is Basquiat's 1982 painting, Il Duce (The Leader), estimated between RMB 80 million and 120 million (around US$12.6 to 19 million dollars). It is the first time that the most expensive American artist’s work is featured in the mainland.

Christie's new art space at the Bund One, Shanghai

Lot 8 Jean-Michel Basquiat Il Duce (The Leader), Acrylic, oilstick on canvas   

Created in 1982
152.4 x 152.4 cm

  • Galerie Bruno Bischofberger, Zürich (acquired directly from the artist)
  • Private collection, USA
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2017

Estimate: RMB 80,000,000 – 120,000,000

Jean-Michel Basquiat's Warrior (1982) | Sold: HK$323.6 million (around US$41.7 million) dollars | Christie's Hong Kong, March 2021

Amongst famous Western artists, Basquiat is the most expensive in Asia. Warrior was sold at Christie's Hong Kong for HK$323.6 million (around US$41.7 million) dollars last year, and is still the most expensive Western artwork in Asia.

Basquiat's influence in Asia did not stop there. In November 2021, Basquiat's largest solo exhibition in mainland China, Radiance, was held in Shanghai.

Less than half a year later, this international auction house presents a new offering – allowing Basquiat's work to be auctioned in mainland China for the first time. The Leader and Warrior were both painted in 1982 – during the peak of Basquiat's creative development.

Photo: ©️ William Coupon

This present painting was inspired by Basquiat's two trips to Italy in 1981 and 1982. During these years, he held his first solo exhibition in Modena at the invitation of Italian art dealer, Emilio Mazzoli. During his time in Italy, he immersed himself in Renaissance Art – with Old Masters such as Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Botticelli – and developed a keen interest in it.

One of Basquiat’s most important motifs was the crown. He first employed gold paint in depicting his iconic three-pointed crown, and Il Duce is one of a select group of works in the artist’s oeuvre that he used it more explicitly – such as Dextrose (1982) and Gold Griot (1984).

From the radiant surface of this large canvas, the face of a powerful and authoritative figure looms large. Rendered in black oilstick, his bold features are in stark contrast to the golden backdrop. His square jaw is matched by his square forehead, topped off with a crewcut of closely cropped hair and a thick-rimmed glasses enclose a pair of fiery eyes.

Pools of multiple layers of red, blue, and white pigment is used to produce a penetrating stare. This layering technique is repeated in other areas of facial detail – his smile is made even more dramatic by the combination of yellow and orange pigment that Basquiat uses, along with the bold flash of orange flecked with black used to indicate a weathered and unshaven cheek.

Basquiat's Dextrose (1982) is part of a series of paintings where the American artist used more gold paint

Basquiat's Gold Griot (1984) is part of a series of paintings where the American artist used more gold paint

Lot 10 Pablo Picasso Dormeuse (Marie-Therese Walter), Oil and charcoal on canvas

Created in 1937
46 x 61 cm

  • The artist's estate, and thence by descent to the present owner

Estimate: RMB 26,000,000 – 33,000,000

Pablo Picasso's Dormeuse (Marie-Therese Walter) is estimated between RMB 26 million and 33 million. This painting was inspired by Picasso's lover and muse, Marie-Therese.

In 1927, when the two met, Marie-Therese was 17, while the Spanish artist was 45 years old. Picasso’s portraits of her as the protagonist are vividly portrayed.

Picasso painted several masterpieces inspired by Marie-Therese – such as Femme assise pres d’une fenetre (Marie-Therese) which sold for US$103.4 million dollars at Christie's New York in 2021 and this present painting.

Pablo Picasso's Femme assise pres d'une fenetre (Marie-Therese, 1937) | Sold: US$103.4 million dollars | Christie's New York, May 2021

Marie-Therese can be considered as Picasso's golden muse 

Created in 1937, this painting marked the 10th year of Picasso's first encounter with Marie-Therese. With her head resting on her hand, and her closed eyes rendered with a single curving line, Picasso depicted his lover unaware – relishing the purity and innocence of his model in a dream. Her head is like a crescent moon, shining brightly. Picasso captures the flawless purity of his lover in the painting, and the whole scene is like a dream.

This work remained in Picasso's private collection. After the Spanish Master’s death in 1973, it was inherited by his granddaughter, Marina. It will be auctioned for the first time.

Other highlight lots:

Lot 12 Kees van Dongen La femme au collier (The lady with a necklace), Oil on canvas  

Created in 1908
100.3 x 81.3 cm

  • Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, by 1908
  • Galerie Druet, Paris
  • Helena Rubinstein, New York, Paris & London; her estate sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, 20 April 1966, Lot 43
  • Private collection, London, by whom acquired at the above sale
  • Prince & Princess Mario Ruspoli, Paris, by October 1967
  • Lefevre Fine Art Ltd., London
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2008

Estimate: RMB 19,500,000 – 32,000,000

Lot 6 Marc Chagall Le bouquet de lilas (The bouquet of lilac), Oil on canvas

Created in 1968
81 x 100.3 cm

  • Galerie Maeght, Paris
  • Private collection, Japan, by whom acquired in the early 1970s
  • Acquired from the above by the present owner, after 2008

Estimate: RMB 13,000,000 – 20,000,000

Lot 13 Zao Wou-ki Le Soir a l’Hotel du Palais (Palace Hotel by night), Oil on canvas

Created in 2004
130 x 195 cm

  • Private collection, Europe (acquired directly from the artist)

Estimate: RMB 11,000,000 – 18,000,000

Lot 7 Amoako Boafo Orange Shirt, Oil on canvas

Created in 2019
162.6 x 152.4 cm

  • Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, Chicago
  • Private collection
  • Acquired from the above by the previous owner
  • Christie’s New York, 10 July 2020, Lot 102
  • Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Estimate: RMB 3,000,000 – 5,000,000  

Sale Details:

Auction House: Christie’s

Sale: 20th and 21st Century: Shanghai Evening Sale

Sale Date: 1 March 2022

Sale: 20th and 21st Century: London Evening Sale

Sale Date: 1 March 2022

Sale: The Art of the Surreal Evening Sale

Sale Date: 1 March 2022