A rare Basquiat appears on the market for the first time

·2-min read
'Versus Medici (1982) could become one of the most expensive works by Jean-Michel Basquiat ever sold at auction.

A canvas painted by Jean-Michel Basquiat during one of his artistic periods that led to works highly prized by collectors, "Versus Medici" will be offered at auction in May at Sotheby's Contemporary Art Evening Auction. It is estimated to fetch between $35 million and $50 million.

Sotheby's closed its latest London sale, held Thursday, March 25, in style. Auctioneer Oliver Baker revealed that a rare painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat, entitled "Versus Medici," will go under the hammer on May 12 in New York. This announcement is all the more important as the painting has remained in the same private collection since the 1990s, and has never been offered at auction.

It has, however, featured in numerous exhibitions since the American artist painted it in 1992, including "Intuition" during the 2017 Venice Biennale and, most recently, the retrospective "Jean-Michel Basquiat: Made in Japan." As Sotheby's notes, "'Versus Medici' is among Basquiat's most forceful visual challenges to the Western art establishment." It was made shortly after his first transformative trip to Italy when the painter was only 22 years old.

This period of Basquiat's work is particularly appreciated by art collectors. Nine of his works that reached top prices at auction were made in 1992. One of them, titled "Untitled," sold for $110.5 million in 2017 at Sotheby's, setting a new record for Jean-Michel Basquiat. More recently, "Warrior" sold for $41.8 million at Christie's Hong Kong.

Although it is unlikely that "Versus Medici" will break the record of "Untitled," it could become one of the most expensive paintings by the artist ever sold at auction.We are thrilled to once again bring one of the artist's most singular and visionary works to auction this spring. Not only does the painting stand among the most powerful within his oeuvre , but it is also a radical repositioning of art history, epitomizing Basquiat's enduring legacy as a true master and icon that firmly places him within the lineage of the Renaissance masters he confronts in this work," declared Grégoire Billault, Sotheby's Head of the Contemporary Art in New York.

Before going under the hammer in May, "Versus Medici" will be exhibited in Taipei (April 3-4), Hong Kong (April 16-20) and Los Angeles (April 24-26), before returning to New York ahead of the sale.

Caroline Drzewinski