Even with a thinning summer season in the art auction scenes, Jean-Michel Basquiat is still making headlines. At Sotheby’s end of June sale at New Bond Street, London, four bidders contested for the unseen triptych of 1983 Jean-Michel Basquiat canvases. The piece, covered with the Artist’s signature symbols and overpaint techniques, sold for £6.5 million.

According to the New York Times, this sale follows “Three Delagates” – a 1982 Basquiat painting which sold for over $18 million at the Art Basel fair in Switzerland. Basquiat has been a collectors' darling since his graffiti art skyrocketed in the late 80s, however, it was not until recently that collectors are willing to sell and buy high-value classic contemporary works.

In mid-May Basquiat joined the 100–million club, siding along with classic artists such as Pablo Picasso and Vincent van Gogh. As stated by Sotheby's, Basquiat’s “Untitled”, an audacious piece of a skull spraypainted in electric colors, was sold to the Japanese billionare Yusaku Maezawa for a record amount $110.5 million at Sotheby’s. This surge of attention Basquiat has garnered in the Art World may be attributed to the rising voice of African-American art and his ongoing influence.

Who was Jean-Michel Basquiat?

Jean Michel Basquiat was a Brooklyn-born graffiti artist who has become one of the most celebrated American post-war contemporary artists alongside Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.

Basquiat is known for his mastery as a neo-expressionist.

His enigmatic epigrams and graffiti mostly revolve around dichotomies such as wealth and poverty. He died of a heroin overdose at the young age of 27 in 1988. He has become the highest grossing American artist and his art value has increased at least tenfold in the past two decades.

His Art Speaks for African-American Culture

Basquiat’s art speaks for the African-American population with a trailblazing clarity. The messages conveyed through his impastoed layers, vibrant colors, and scribbles are voices of a chained African-American. The gnash of teeth, burning eyes, and blue graffiti are all human conditions compressed into a single capsule, waiting for their attentive audiences of appreciate its value.

His success lies in the immediacy his art brings and his appeal to his common audience. The rendering of cultural and social issues in his art reveals the complex mind of a genius Basquiat is telltale of a skilled American artist sharing his stories of the street, oppression, and race division.