Ahead of its Paris and London Impressionist and modern evening sale tomorrow, Sotheby’s has announced it will sell two works by Jean-Michael Basquiat from the estate of dealer Enrico Navarra, who died in July at age 67. Both were completed in 1986, two years before the artist’s death. Titled Black and Jazz, the works will go up for sale during Sotheby’s New York contemporary art evening sale next week on October 28, alongside deaccessioned pieces from the Brooklyn Museum and Baltimore Museums of Art collections. Both works are estimated at $4 million–$6 million.
The paintings on wood panel comprise some of Basquiat’s most recognizable motifs. Jazz features a Xerox drawing referencing musician Charles Parker’s song “Now’s the Time,” as well as Basquiat’s copyright symbol, a reference to his graffiti artist alter-ego ©SAMO, alongside anatomical drawings and written scrawls. Navarra acquired the work in 1996 from the artist’s early dealer, Akira Ikeda Gallery in Japan.
The painting’s counterpart, Black, also displays Basquiat’s reference to another prominent Black musician: Louis Armstrong. Elsewhere in the piece, Basquiat’s three-point crown and a skull-like head appear. Navarra acquired the work a year prior to Jazz, in 1995. Both last appeared publicly at a Museo delle Culture di Milano (MUDEC) Basquiat survey in 2016.
Although the works have been in the Navarra collection since the mid-1990s, this is not the first time they have been offered for sale at the auction house. In April 2015, Sotheby’s included the works in a private selling exhibition co-organized with Drake, alongside works by Theaster Gates, David Hammons, and Barkley L. Hendricks. Both works went unsold.
A prominent collector of Basquiat with close ties to mega-collecting family the Mugrabis, Navarra co-authored a comprehensive three-volume catalogue of Basquiat’s work in 1996 with dealer Tony Shafrazi. His work amplifying Basquiat’s legacy has helped result in the expansion of the artist’s market. In 2017, Sotheby’s sold a 1982 untitled skull painting by Basquiat for $110.5 million.
“Through his exhibitions, scholarship and beyond, Navarra had a profound role in developing the international market for Basquiat’s work that we see today,” Grégoire Billault, head of Sotheby’s contemporary art department in New York, said in a statement.
Navarra was also instrumental in securing loans for the 2005 Basquiat retrospective curated by Fred Hoffman that went to the Brooklyn Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and the Museum of Fine Art, Houston.