A 1983 painting by Haitian-American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat reached $93.1 million on Tuesday at a Christie’s auction in New York, nearly twice its estimated price.
A ten-minute bidding battle between three phone bidders for “In This Case” began at $40 million, escalated quickly to $50 million (its estimate) and hammered at $81 million, a total of $93.1 million with fees and commissions.
The piece was reportedly consigned by Giancarlo Giammetti, fashion designer and cofounder of Valentino.
The large-scale work featuring a red-grounded skull became the second most expensive work by Basquiat sold at auction, trailing another skull-focused work, “Untitled” (1982), which was sold in May 2017 to Japanese collector Yusaku Maezawa for $110 million in a Sotheby’s auction.
A record artist price for Mickalene Thomas was set with “Racquel Reclining Wearing Purple Jumpsuit,” from 2016, which sold for $1.8 million. The Christie's sale totalled $210.5 million on Tuesday evening from 37 lots.
On Wednesday night, Basquiat's "Versus Medici" (1982) at Sotheby’s went to $50,820,000, just hitting its top estimate of $50 million. Top lots from the evening also included Cy Twombly’s Untitled (Rome), 1970, which sold for $41,628,000.
Bidding battles broke out over Robert Colescott’s George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware: Page from an American History Textbook, 1975, which achieved $15,201,000, more than 16 times Colescott's previous auction record of $912,500. The buyer was the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles, according to the New York Times.
Sotheby's Contemporary Art sale brought a total of $218.3 million.
The same day, a sale of Mrs. John L. Marion's collection totaled $157.2 million, with California artist Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park #40, 1971, setting an artist record at $27,265,500. New auction records were also reached for a work by Kenneth Noland, whose 1958 painting Rocker sold for $4,255,000, and Larry Rivers’s Africa I, 1961–62, which achieved $2,077,000.
A third Sotheby's sale on Wednesday, the Impressionist & Modern Art Evening Sale, brought a total $221.3 million. Le Bassin aux nymphéas, one of Monet’s iconic waterlilies works, achieved $70,353,000 after a heated pursuit by five bidders. The painting now ranks in the top five most expensive works by the artist to be sold at auction.
The live-streamed trio of Sotheby's auctions, held in New York with a sparse audience, brought a total $596.8 million.