Basquiat triptych fetches $67.1 million in New York auction
New York City, May 15 (EFE).- A large triptych by late painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, titled “El Gran Espectaculo (The Nile),” sold at auction at Christie’s in New York on Monday for $67.1 million, far eclipsing its $45 million estimate.
The conjoined painting, also known as “Untitled (The History of Black People),” is now on its way to becoming one of the biggest sales of the spring season that began last week in the big New York auction houses.
Painted in 1983 when Basquiat was 22 years old, “El Gran Espectaculo” confronts the history of slavery, featuring the artist’s typical skulls, drips and scrawls, as well as boat captained by the god Osiris down the Nile, the guard dog of the Pharaoh, some hemlock and a yellow sickle.
The 173 x 358 cm work was part of the collection of Italian fashion designer Valentino Garavani, who acquired it for $5.2 million in 2005, according to Artnews. A portion of the proceeds from its sale was to go to the Accademia Valentino in Rome.
“El Gran Espectaculo (The Nile) is a justly important painting, both in terms of its physical scale and its intellectual scope. It reproduces the landscape of Basquiat’s lived experience with those who went before him. A ‘history painting’ in the true sense of the phrase, it stands as an encyclopedia of his masterly technique, his unique motifs, and his sophisticated understanding of history,” Christie’s said.
“During his brief but turbulent career, [Basquiat] produced an outstanding body of work rich in highly expressive paintings which addressed both the artist’s own personal search for self-identity, and also his place in a wider history. In such an important oeuvre, El Gran Espectaculo (The Nile) sits at the very top.”
“El Gran Espectáculo” is now the fourth most expensive painting by the New York-born artist of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent, still far from the record-shattering $110.5 million paid for the work “Untitled, 1982,” which was sold at Sotheby’s in 2017.
In recent years, Basquiat has become a must-have artist at the big New York auctions, along with Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso and all the Impressionists, who dominate the big fall and spring sales. EFE