Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Warrior” Comes to Auction in Hong Kong

Priyanka Patil
Published on

“I want to make paintings that look as if they were made by a child.” These words by Jean-Michel Basquiat are reflected in his painting Warrior, created at the peak of his artistic career. We Are All Warriors – The Basquiat Auction, presented by Christie’s Hong Kong, will feature Warrior by Jean-Michel Basquiat on March 23rd, 2021. Along with its rarity, the artwork is also one of the highest-valued Western paintings ever presented in an Asian auction.

Warrior by Jean-Michel Basquiat
Source: Christie’s
Warrior by Jean-Michel Basquiat
Source: Christie’s

Jean-Michel Basquiat was a famous American artist who elevated graffiti art and introduced it to New York galleries. His works reference his Puerto Rican and Haitian heritage and emphasize pop-culture, Biblical verses, and political issues. The price of his work keeps increasing at auction. Particularly, paintings created in 1982 often earn record-breaking prices. One prominent example is an untitled 1982 artwork featuring a black skull, which sold in a 2017 Sotheby’s auction for USD110.5 million.

This year, one more painting from Basquiat’s 1982 artworks will be available at Christie’s landmark auction in Hong Kong. The single-lot auction will offer Warrior by Jean-Michel Basquiat at the estimated price of $31 million to $41 million. 

We Are All Warriors – The Basquiat Auction by Christie’s Hong Kong
Image Source: Christie’s
We Are All Warriors – The Basquiat Auction by Christie’s Hong Kong
Image Source: Christie’s

Basquiat’s Warrior is a commanding portrait that displays the maturity of the artist’s artistic language. The painting is part of the 1981- 1982 series on wood panels consisting of Irony of Negro Policeman and La Hara. The warrior holds a silver sword in one hand and focuses his eyes on the viewer. The piece is semi-autobiographical, referencing living as a Black American. “You see the anger, you see everyday street life,” states Cristian Albu, co-head of post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s. 

The evening sale will take place in Hong Kong along with live streaming on Christie’s online platform. Offering the work in Asia also marks a homecoming moment for the painting, as it first came to market in Tokyo at a 1983 sale by Akira Ikeda Gallery. Since then, the artwork has been part of multiple Basquiat exhibitions, especially the iconic 2019 Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition held by the Brant Foundation Art Study Center in New York.

The high estimate of Warrior suggests the increasing demand for Western works in the Asian market. It also demonstrates, according to Albu, “the power of the painting, the rawness of the painting.” Christie’s looks to build off its success in Asia last year. 2020 marked a record-breaking year for the auction house on the continent.

“Collectors are increasingly making links between traditional artists and Western art history. I think it’s so important to broaden that idea of building the collection and understanding that Sanyu also gets inspired by Matisse, or that Zao Wou-Ki gets inspired by Soulages and the artists in Paris in the 1950s and 1960s,” says Albu while explaining the appeal of Western artworks to Asian buyers.

We Are All Warriors – The Basquiat Auction from Christie’s starts at 10 p.m. HKT. Warrior is now on view at Christie’s showplace at Rockefeller Plaza in New York until March 1st. The artwork will be on display at the Alexandra House, Hong Kong, from March 15th until the day of the auction.

Want to learn more about Black American artists with works available? Auction Daily recently looked at the career of Sam Gilliam, along with a signed monoprint on offer from the artist.

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