7498 - 20170308 - Landmark Jean-Michel Basquiat to lead Sotheby's London Contemporary Art Evening Auction - London - 08.03.2017


Jean-Michel Basquiat, Untitled (One Eyed Man or Xerox Face) acrylic, spray paint, oilstick and Xerox collage on panel, 182.9 by 121.9 cm. Estimate: £14,000,000-18,000,000 / $17,060,000-21,940,000. Photo: Sotheby's.
Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction on 8 March will be led by Untitled (One Eyed Man or Xerox Face), one of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s finest full-length male figures from his series of grand-scale paintings that took the art world by storm in the early 1980s.

Now estimated at £14-18 million, Untitled (One Eyed Man or Xerox Face) last appeared at auction in 1987, the year before the artist’s death, when it sold for $23,100. This was among the highest prices ever paid for the artist at the time.

Basquiat’s heroic male figures, always depicted with both arms raised aloft, and often shown with a studded halo or roughly pronged crown, formed the centrepiece of almost all the artist’s most important early works. Often based on the black athletes whose prowess allowed them to transcend racial boundaries in mid-20th century America, these figures were of huge personal importance to the artist. As a young black man raised in a middle-class family in Brooklyn, he readily felt the effects of racial segregation in art history: “I realised that I didn’t see many paintings with black people in them”.

Alex Branczik, Head of Contemporary Art, Sotheby’s Europe: ““The hero figures in Basquiat’s paintings refer to the stars of sporting, musical and artistic worlds who, thanks to their extraordinary talents, transcended their social status to become the nation’s icons. Painted with their arms held aloft and wearing a crown of thorns they also reflect Basquiat’s own dramatic ascent from street artist to gallery sensation, and to his present status as one of the most valuable and talked about artists in the world.”

Dating from 1982, Untitled (One Eyed Man or Xerox Face) is painted with the unbridled confidence and conviction of an artist at the zenith of his career. This was the moment when, as the prodigy of the painterly elite, he had become a dominant force in the international art world. His breakthrough had come a year before with the renowned New York/New Wave show at the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Centre. In 1982 he was the subject of six solo shows and became the youngest artist ever privileged with an invitation to exhibit in documenta 7 alongside the likes of Gerhard Richter, Joseph Beuys, Cy Twombly and Andy Warhol. Looking back on this astonishing year, Basquiat recalled “I made the best paintings ever.”