This spring, Japanese multimillionaire Yusaku Maezawa will part with a prized work from his collection, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1982 painting Untitled (Devil), which he bought just six years ago at Christie’s for $57.3 million. Scheduled to hit the block at Phillips during a New York contemporary art evening sale on May 18, the work carries an estimate of $70 million and is poised to become the most expensive lot that the house has ever sold. It is being offered with a guarantee.
Basquiat’s market has soared with each auction season in recent years. In 2021 alone, three works by Basquiat sold for prices above $40 million.
The entrepreneur, who has appeared on ARTnews’s Top 200 Collectors list each year since 2016, set the auction record for Basquiat when he placed the winning bid for Untitled (Devil). Maezawa, whose fortune comes from founding the online retailer Zozotown, would go on to reset Basquiat’s auction record with the purchase of a 1982 painting of a skull for $110.5 million at Sotheby’s the year afterward. Both of those purchases helped make Maezawa an art-world celebrity.
“I believe that art collections are something that should always continue to grow and evolve as the owner does,” said Maezawa in a statement, remarking on his decision to sell Untitled (Devil). He is in the midst of planning a private museum in Chiba where his collection will be housed.
In 2016, Untitled (Devil) was being sold by the New York dealer Adam Lindemann. The 16-foot-wide painting features an image of a horned devil that appears throughout much of Basquiat’s art. In the 2016 sale, Untitled (Devil) exceeded its high estimate of $40 million.
The work will be exhibited at Phillip’s outposts in London, Los Angeles, and Taipei, before landing at its final destination in New York ahead of the May 18 sale.
Phillips, the third-largest auction house in the world after Christie’s and Sotheby’s, is currently experiencing a period of growth. In 2021, the house generated $993.3 million in annual sales, an increase of 35 percent over the pre-pandemic turnout and the highest total in the company’s history. The boutique house, which has locations in New York and London, is also plotting an expansion, with plans to establish a new headquarters in Hong Kong’s West Kowloon Cultural District in the fall of 2022 as well as an outpost in Los Angeles that has not yet been dated.
“We have been building toward this moment for the past several years,” Phillips Americas president, Jean-Paul Engelen, told ARTnews. “You can see the pieces falling into place.”