Basquiat’s legacy: how the late artist left his mark on the art world

September 9, 20224 min read
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Three takeaways: 

  • Jean-Michel Basquiat’s artwork continues to climb in value, with a 15 year CAGR of 21.1%.  
  • Sales of Basquiat’s work at auction accounted for 77% of the $2.2 billion total spend for the Black-American art market, which will likely increase as museums undergo a historical reevaluation of underappreciated Black artists.
  • Yieldstreet is a proud sponsor of Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure © , which is on exhibit at the Starrett-Lehigh Building 601 West 26th street in NYC.

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s artwork continues to climb in value, with a 15 year CAGR of 21.1%. The late artist completed 1,500 works over the course of his eight-year career, which sold to collectors in the 1980s for less than $20,000. The demand for his work increased over the years as the themes expressed in his paintings, such as race, class, oppression, colonialism, self-identity, rose in cultural relevance – today, Basquat’s artworks are breaking auction records, fetching close to eight figure sums. At Phillips on May 18, 2022 for example, the marquee lot of the night was an untitled 1982 piece by Jean-Michel Basquiat, which was sold by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa for a staggering $85 million. This was only the third-highest price for a Basquiat, sold at a 50% increase from the painting’s last sale in 2016. His second-most expensive piece titled In This Case from 1983 fetched  $93.1 million at Christie’s in 2021, at nearly double its presale estimate, while his most expensive painting, untitled, sold in 2017 to Maezawa for  $110.5 million. At the time it set the record for the most expensive American work sold at an auction, which was broken by Andy Warhol’s Shot Sage Blue Marilyn in May 2022, when the piece sold for $195 million.

The overall combined value of Basquiat’s works auctioned off since 2006 is a staggering $2.03 billion. Last year alone, sales of Basquiat’s artwork generated $439.6 million, placing him behind only Pablo Picasso as one of the most highly valued artists of all time.

Sales of Basquiat’s work at auction accounted for 77% of the $2.2 billion total spend for the Black-American art market, which is on course to edge up as museums undergo a historical reevaluation of underappreciated Black artists by increasing their visibility. Notably, between the period of 2008 and 2018, only 2.3% of museum acquisitions were of work by black artists when black Americans make up 12% of the US population. 

The massive Black Lives Matter protests that swept through the world in 2020 following the police murder of George Floyd have contributed to a reassessment of Black art, which was already largely underway, experts and artists say. Moreover, the emergence of prominent Black collectors, like Jay-Z, Kanye West, Alicia Keys and her husband Swizz Beatz continues to boost the market for Black contemporary artists, according to Sherman Edmiston, President of New York’s Essie Green Gallery, an institution advocating for Black artists since 1979. 

“It’s all about culture. Hip Hop was a cultural phenomenon and [these musicians] were early adopters and tastemakers,” Edmison told AFP.

In 2021, Basquiat became the first Black painter to headline both Christie’s and Sotheby’s main auctions, cementing his trailblazer status for the Black-American art movement. That same year, six Black contemporary artists set new artist records, including four figurative works by women artists. Raquel Reclining Wearing Purple Jumpsuit (2016) by Mickalene Thomas, whose work is included in Yieldstreet Art Equity Fund III, sold for more than $1.8 million, marking the first time her work sold for more than $1 million at auction.  The Sugar Shack by Eddie Barnes, the dance-hall painting made famous for appearing in the credits of the 1970s sitcom “Good Times,” sold at auction this spring for a record-breaking $15.2 million, which was 76 times its estimate of $150,000 to $200,000, according to Christie’s. The Sugar Shack also marked the first appearance of Barnes’ work in an evening sale.

Artists like Kehinde Wiley – who painted Barack Obama’s portrait –  El Anatsui, Rashid Johnson, and Beauford Delaney continue to shake the art market as well, charging forward on the trail blazed by Basquiat.

Yieldstreet is a proud sponsor of Jean-Michel Basquiat: King Pleasure © , on exhibit at the Starrett-Lehigh Building 601 West 26th street in NYC. Moreover, our platform offers a diversified Art Equity Fund, made up of artworks by globally acclaimed contemporary artists like Jean-Michel Basquiat, including Damien Hirst, Edward Ruscha, and Lucio Fontana, among others. All the featured artists have historically outperformed their pre-auction valuations and are expected to maintain strong sales performance throughout the duration of the fund.

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