During the mid-1980s, I spent time in New York’s East Village art scene, but initially missed the boat on Jean-Michel Basquiat. Like most great artists, Basquiat was a step ahead of his audience. One day, I was in the process of putting together a contemporary drawings show for my San Francisco Gallery, Acme Art. I was offered a colorful Basquiat oil pastel on paper which depicted a bottle of Barolo, a snake with a crown of thorns, some olives, and a smattering of words — and decided to take the plunge and buy it. The drawing was included in my gallery’s show and quickly sold to Toby Lewis, the curator of the Progressive Corporation’s art collection. Man, do I miss that drawing.
The Market for Basquiat
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s legitimate myth continues to grow. And so does his market. With the well-publicized sale of a remarkable 1982 Basquiat painting of a skull, for an outrageous $110.5 million (in 2017) to Yusaku Maezawa, his work took on a whole new level of recognition. Basically, it put him in the same financial league as Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol. Since then, Basquiat’s art has enjoyed major exhibitions at the Tate in London, the Foundation Louis Vuitton in Paris, and the Brant Foundation in New York. Basquiat scholarship is at an all-time high with multiple publications appearing by authors including Fred Hoffman and Dieter Buchhart. There’s also been a cascade of authorized Basquiat merchandise, such as skateboard decks, backpacks, and tee-shirts.
Works and Authenticity
However, with the growing interest in Basquiat’s work, a slew of fake paintings and drawings entered the market. The current situation is that the Basquiat estate (as of 2012) no longer authenticates work. Richard Polsky Art Authentication has filled this niche, providing collectors with an opportunity to determine the authenticity of their works — whether they were never shown to the Basquiat committee or unfairly rejected.
One of the considerations, which we take into account when we examine a Basquiat, is the chaotic nature of his career. Basquiat enjoyed mainstream success by exhibiting with high-profile galleries during his lifetime, including Annina Nosei, Mary Boone, Bruno Bischofberger, and Larry Gagosian. But Basquiat was also notorious for selling directly out of his studio to anyone who showed up with cash and the “right” attitude. As might be expected, few of these works were documented. Ditto for a plethora of other works that were given as gifts, taken without permission, or traded.
As Richard Polsky Art Authentication continues to grow, our knowledge of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s oeuvre has expanded. We constantly study new developments in Basquiat scholarship, with an eye toward increasing our connoisseurship, commensurate with our goal of providing the most accurate Basquiat authentication service around.