Chiba City, Japan
It makes sense that retail mogul Yusaku Maezawa would be a big fan of Jean-Michel Basquiat. One one thing, they were both once rockers: Maezawa played in a punk band in Japan before moving to California to be close to his heroes in the Dead Kennedys and the Melvins, while Basquiat was in the band Gray, gigging regularly at the Mudd Club and other spots in downtown Manhattan. Their interests also stretched into fashion early in their lives: Maezawa is partly responsible for bringing the street style of Harajuku to high-end Japanese retailers, and Basquiat famously went from dressing like a workaday artist to splattering paint on his five-figure Armani and Comme des Garçons suits. Finally, they both dated famous women: Maezawa was for a period attached to the actress Saeko, and Basquiat shacked up with Madonna for a time at Larry Gagosian’s house in L.A.
Maezawa, who is now worth well over $1 billion thanks to his online retail site Zozotown, has been known for his formidable spending abilities. In one two-day stretch in 2016, he bought seven works—including Bruce Nauman’s Eat War (1986), Jeff Koons’s Lobster (2007), and Alexander Calder’s Sumac 17 (1955)—for a combined $98 million at Christie’s and Sotheby’s. In a statement afterward, Maezawa announced plans to put share his new trophies by putting them on public display at his Contemporary Art Foundation in Tokyo. He again turned heads at Sotheby’s in May 2017 after dropping $110 million on a gigantic Basquiat, setting a record for the artist at auction. Then he gained attention all over again in May 2022, when he sold another Basquiat that he’d bought for $57.3 million six years earlier. At Phillips, it sold for $85 million with fees—nearly $30 million more than Maezawa had initially paid for the painting.
As with his collecting, his personal life comes with grand ambitions—in 2020, he began, and then quickly abandoned, a search for a girlfriend that would accompany him on the first SpaceX flight around the moon, then abruptly called it off. He also pledged $9 million to his Twitter followers that year.