Are Asian collectors crazy for Jean-Michel Basquiat? Christie's certainly hopes so. The auction house plans to sell the artist's "Warrior" painting in Hong Kong this March, in a sale that could set a new record for a Western artist on the Asian market.
Contemporary art fans will no doubt recognize this imposing and semi-autobiographical painting, created by the artist in the early 1980s. The artwork belongs to a series created on panel by Basquiat when his "artistic language reached maturity," according to Christie's. That could explain why collectors are often ready to stump up eight- or nine-figure sums to buy works from this period.
And "Warrior" could be one of those artworks. Christie's hopes that the painting will fetch HK$240 million to HK$320 million (approx. US$31 million to US$41 million) during the "We Are All Warriors" sale , held March 23. While this estimate is far from the $110 million fetched by "Untitled" in 2017, it could still make Jean-Michel Basquiat the most bankable Western artist in Asia's art market. The current holder of that title is the German painter, Gerhard Richter, whose work, "Abstraktes Bild (649-2,)" exceeded its Sotheby's estimate to sell for $27.7 million in October.
The last time "Warrior" came to market, the painting was sold to an American collector for $8.7 million at Sotheby's, a sum slightly surpassing its low estimate of $7.8 million. While the upcoming sale of "Warrior" seems to pursue Basquiat's rise at auction, it is also indicative of resilience in Asia's art market, in spite of the pandemic. In fact, Hong Kong has become the second-biggest contemporary art auction market in the world, after New York, according to a report from ArtTactic. During the first eight months of the year, Hong Kong's market share grew to reach 26%, compared to 20% for the whole of 2019.