Each day this week, Christie’s chairman Brett Gorvy has been using his improbably popular Instagram feed—27,000 followers, and counting!—to reveal the major lots in the house’s postwar and contemporary evening sale that happens in New York on May 10. Today’s drop is Basquiat’s Untitled (Devil), 1982, which the artist painted when he was just 22, during a productive spell in Modena, Italy. Christie’s has set the sale expectations high: the estimate for the work is $40 million, putting it within spitting distance of the artist’s record, which was made at Christie’s during the May 2013 sales in New York, when Dustheads (1982) went for $48.8 million. The buyer was Jho Low, the Malaysian financier (and party pal of Paris Hilton) who last year was embroiled in an international money-laundering scandal.
A representative from Christie’s said company policy doesn’t allow them to disclose consignors, but it is just about certain that Untitled (Devil) is making its way to the block from the collection of Venus Over Manhattan proprietor and collector Adam Lindemann.
Lindemann declined to comment when reached by email, but it’s not exactly like he’s been hiding the fact that he owns the work. When Bloomberg profiled him in 2010, the story touched upon the then-new phenomenon of dealers creating their own museums, using the Foundation Beyeler as an example of such a thing. The show then up at the Beyeler, the article noted, was a Basquiat exhibition to which Lindemann loaned a work: Untitled (Devil), 1982. When that show traveled the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, press materials indicated that the work was loaned by “Collection Amalia Dayan et Adam Lindemann.” (The dealer Amalia Dayan is Lindemann’s wife.)
What’s more, the painting figures prominently in the book David Adjaye: A House for an Art Collector, a luxe coffee-table tome published by Rizzoli in 2011. It’s a celebration of the mansion at 77 East 77th Street that the British architect designed for Lindemann—Adjaye’s first private residence in New York—and combs carefully through the offerings in Lindemann’s collection. New York magazine has a slide show of eight images from the book on its website, and Untitled (Devil) appears in two of them.
And take a look at this glossy T magazine photo shoot of Dayan wearing Lanvin. That’s right, Untitled (Devil) is there in the background.
According to artnet, the painting was last sold at auction at the Sotheby’s contemporary art evening sale in London in June 2004. The price with premium was £2.5 million, or $4.5 million—enough to make it the night’s top-selling lot, but a far cry from the amount it will probably sell for in May. It’s unclear whether Lindemann was the buyer, though this snippet of an interview published on Artspace may potentially be a clue:
So, let’s say that I bought a Jean-Michel Basquiat painting in 2004 and I was kind of nervous about it. I was able to go to all these different people and ask, “What do you think about Basquiat?” and that would make me feel more confident.
Another piece of evidence is the Jean Royère “Ours Polaire” sofa in the picture Gorvy instagrammed this morning. Just like with Kanye West—who recently called the “Ours Polaire,” a couch that can go for $340,000 at auction, his favorite piece of furniture he owns—Lindemann is a Royère fan.