Ahead of its main New York evening sales series scheduled to take place this spring, Christie’s is bringing a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat to the open market for the first time. His 1982 triptych Portrait of the Artist as a Young Derelict (1982) will be offered in Christie’s contemporary art evening sale this May. Bidding for the nearly-seven-foot-wide work will start at around $30 million, a Christie’s spokesperson said, although an estimate is only available upon request. Christie’s has yet to announce a date for sale.
Basquiat’s prices have seen a rapid rise in the last year. Only seven works by the artist, who died in 1988 at 27, have been auctioned for more than $40 million; three of those were sold last year. Most of them were produced in the early ’80s, during the era of the artist’s career that collectors and dealers consider to be most valuable.
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Derelict is a three-part painting on wood panel that features at its rightmost panel a leering face showing its teeth. The painting also loosely alludes to Basquiat’s own stardom and contains death-related imagery. The word “Morte” is written at the bottom of the painting’s middle panel over a drawing of a cross. In another section, an outlined crown—a recurring motif in Basquiat’s work—appears. The painting’s triptych format has been considered a reference to Northern Renaissance painting.
The work has been in the same private collection for 27 years. First showcased at New York’s Fun Gallery the same year it was produced, the piece has traveled to Basquiat shows at the Brooklyn Museum in New York, the Fondation Beyeler in Switzerland, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, and the Fondation Louis Vuitton, also in Paris, in 2019.
Ana Maria Celis, Christie’s head of 21st-century art sales, described the painting in a statement as “a rare work of self- portraiture” that was made as an “altar to graffiti art and artists.”
Alongside the present lot, another rare work by Basquiat that belonged to Keith Haring until the artist’s death in 1990 will also be sold by Christie’s. Showcased alongside the self-portrait at Fun Gallery in 1982, See Plate 3 (1982) is a two-foot-tall sculpture of black wooden box elevated on a four-legged pedestal. The phrase “HEAD OF A FRYER” is written on one of the box’s four facades; on another side, a crown is drawn. It will be offered at an estimate of $4 million–$6 million.