Christie’s has unveiled a 1983 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat that the house will offer for sale in its New York contemporary art evening sale on May 11. Titled In any case (1983), the painting is expected to fetch a price of $50 million and is being sold by Italian collector Giancarlo Giammetti, the cofounder of fashion label Valentino.
If the work reaches its low estimate, it will be among the most expensive works by the artist ever sold at auction. The painting will go on view at Christie’s outpost in Hong Kong on April 28 and then travel to New York ahead of its sale.
Measuring at more than 6-by-6-feet, the painting is one of three from a series of large-scale skull works that Basquiat completed in 1983. The piece bears reference to the 1983 police killing of Michael Stewart, a young Black street artist in New York. (Similar works formed the basis of a 2019 Guggenheim Museum survey curated by Chaédria LaBouvier.) It comprises some of the artist’s signature motifs prized among collectors—a skeletal head bearing a wide grin and scrawled signs in the background.
For 14 years, the work has remained in the hands of Giammetti, who purchased it in 2007 from Gagosian. Most recently, Giammetti loaned the piece to the major 2017 exhibition around Basquiat at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris. Prior to that, it sold at Sotheby’s in November 2002 for just $999,500. Almost two decades later, Christie’s current estimate represents a staggering value increase of 4,902 percent.
The announcement follows Christie’s sale of Basquiat’s 1982 painting Warrior, from the collection of Aby Rosen, for $41.9 million this past March in Hong Kong. That work is now among the top ten works by Basquiat ever sold at auction.