One of the iconic paintings of Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988), pioneer of American graffiti, entitled Untitled, executed in 1982, returns to the market in search of a new record. The work will be the star of the auction of the “20th Century & Contemporary Art” catalog on May 18 at the Phillips house in New York. Basquiat’s painting in May 2016 was auctioned at Christie’s in New York for $ 57.3 million. After exactly 6 years, the monumental painting, over 5 meters wide, is sold again: it was delivered to the Phillips auction house by its owner, the Japanese tycoon and collector Yusaku Maezawa. It is estimated at around 70 million dollars, a starting figure that is itself a first for Basquiat. Ahead of the mid-May auction, the work will embark on an international tour in London, Los Angeles and Taipei, before heading to Phillips’ New York headquarters at 432 Park Avenue.
Only a few days ago the landscape The Empire of Lights (The Empire of Lights) by Belgian painter René Magritte (1898-1967) was auctioned at Sotheby’s in London for £ 59.4 million ($ 79.8 million; € 71.5 million), setting the new record for a work by the master of Surrealism. At the same time, it also took the lead as the most valuable painting ever sold at auction in Europe. The previous record for a Magritte was $ 26,830,500 (about 23 million euros) for the painting The Pleasure Principle a 1937 portrait of Edward James, sold at Sotheby’s in New York in 2018. The empire of lights it was painted in 1961 for Baroness Anne-Marie Gillion Crowet, the daughter of the artist’s patron, the Belgian collector Pierre Crowet, and has remained in the family collection ever since. The subject may have been inspired by the poem Egret by André Breton, whom Magritte knew well, with the line that opens: “Si seulement il faisait du soleil cette nuit” (“If only the sun came out tonight”). The eerie combination of a dark and nocturnal street under a bright blue sky is typical of Magritte’s haunting surrealist imagery. Exhibited worldwide in Brussels, Rome, Paris, Vienna, Milan, Seoul, Edinburgh and San Francisco, the painting The Empire of Lights it was recently on loan to the Musée Magritte in Brussels from 2009 to 2020, surrounded by the finest collection of the artist’s paintings in the world.