Basquiat headlines Sotheby’s summer art sale

A multi-panel painting by American artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat is one of the top lots to go on sale at Sotheby’s upcoming Summer Season auctions in London next month.

Seen as one of the artist’s most complex and delicate works, it will go under the hammer alongside paintings by Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and others.

“This piece is the headline of the contemporary portion of the evening sale next week,” said Emma Baker, senior director and head of Contemporary Art, Sotheby’s.

“It is ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Young Derelict’ from 1982. And it’s a great altarpiece and self-portrait and celebration of the artist as a street artist and a graffiti artist.”

The painting was inspired by the James Joyce novel, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and is estimated to sell at somewhere between $20 and 30 million.

“It was painted when he was only 22 years old, and he had a meteoric rise to success. He really gained a name for himself as a street artist, creating these graffiti slogans around New York,” said Baker.

She said, however, that although he had made his on the streets, it was really his studio art that launched him into the forefront of contemporary art at the time.

Baker said the piece combines many of Basquiat’s most important motifs that he would continue to draw throughout his career.

“The three-pointed crown that we see, the mask-like face, which is sort of a moniker and synonymous with self-portraiture for the artist. It has graffiti-like scrawls, crossed out words, Latin phrases as well.”

The artwork has been described as his most sincere self-portrait, honouring both his success, but also revealing his struggles with self-destructive behaviour.

Basquiat died just five years later of a heroine overdose.

The Sotheby’s Modern and Contemporary Evening Auction takes place at its London headquarters on 25 June.