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Basquiat: ‘More Interest in Europe Than in the U.S.’

Collectors from throughout Europe have been buying and “making inquiries” about paintings in the current show of Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-88), which runs through Nov. 17 at Martin Summers Fine Art, London. Citing interest from collectors in England, Germany, Italy, Monaco and the Netherlands, Martin Summers told ARTnewsletter: “There’s more interest in Europe than in the

NEW YORK—Collectors from throughout Europe have been buying and “making inquiries” about paintings in the current show of Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-88), which runs through Nov. 17at Martin Summers Fine Art, London. Citing interest from collectors in England, Germany, Italy, Monaco and the Netherlands, Martin Summers told ARTnewsletter: “There’s more interest in Europe than in the United States at the moment.”

Of the ten paintings in the exhibition, priced from $1.5/3 million, most have been sold or are the subject of “extreme interest” to private collectors, Summers says, adding that several of the collectors already own at least one other work by Basquiat.

This is the gallery’s first show of Basquiat. Between 1967-2002, Summers was managing director of London’s Lefevre Gallery, which had never exhibited the artist’s work.

“I’ve been buying Basquiats for the past five or six years, from private collectors mostly,” says Summers, who in the past two years has sold 13 of the more than 20 paintings he had acquired.

The estate is not represented by any gallery at present, although John Cheim, co-owner of Manhattan’s Cheim & Read gallery, is currently a member of the Basquiat authentication committee, along with the artist’s father, Gerard Basquiat, who controls the estate.

In the late winter of 2005, Cheim & Read staged an exhibit of works on paper by the artist, titled “In Word Only.” The estate does not have vast reserves of artworks, reports Cheim, who notes that most of Basquiat’s important works are currently in collections or available only on the secondary market, although a number of important pieces remain in the estate.

Prices for Basquiat’s drawings and paintings on paper range from $50,000/750,000, although most sales are in the $50,000/200,000 realm, Cheim says: Prices for paintings range from “$1 million to $5 million, generally.”

Last year two major museums—the Brooklyn Museum and the Museo d’Arte Moderna, in Lugano, Switzerland—held retrospective exhibitions of the artist’s paintings and works on paper.

Basquiat first drew the art world’s attention around 1980 (as part of a two-man tag team), through spray-painted aphorisms on lower Manhattan buildings, signed SAMO (for Same Old Sh–). His paintings were included in a 1981 survey of graffiti art at P.S. 1, entitled “New York/New Wave.” That year his first New York dealer, Annina Nosei, invited Basquiat to paint in the basement of her gallery, permitting him to create more and larger works on canvas, suitable for collecting.

The secondary market for Basquiat has proved highly profitable for collectors who bought the artist’s work early on. The highest public sale price to date is $5.5 million, for the 1982 acrylic on canvas Profit I, which surpassed Christie’s $3/5 million estimate back in 2002.

Other top prices include $5.2 million (estimate $4.5/6.5 million) for the 1983 El Gran Espectaculo —The History of Black People (in three parts) at Sotheby’s in 2005;$4.6 million (estimate $2.5/3.5 million) for an untitled 1982 acrylic at Sotheby’s in 2003; and $4.49 million (estimate $3.3/4.6 million) for an untitled 1982 acrylic on canvas at Sotheby’s London in 2004.

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