A 1982 self-portrait by Haitian-born Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) fetched a record price of over 3,3 million dollars at Christie's on November 12th 1998.
The previous record for a work by Basquiat had been set in 1997 by Sotheby's with US $ 596,500 paid for Unbreakable a painting that was sold by Paris dealer Yvon Lambert to French singer Gérard Lenormand for a mere 200,000 French francs (some US $ 35,700) in 1988. The painting was then sold a few months later for 450,000 French francs (US $ 80,357) to a well-known French collector.
The self-portrait was acquired by Philip Niarchos, the son of Greek magnate Stravos Niarchos. It had been offered in 1993 for US $ 250,000 to the Paris Georges Pompidou National Museum of Modern Art which refused to buy it.
Basquiat has become much the target of collectors in recent months and the fact that he died from a drug overdose ten years ago is no stranger to his fame. The price paid for his self-portrait was five times the highest estimate.
Specialists said they were sure that prices for the artist's works would continue to rise in the near future.
On November 17th 1998, Sotheby's benefited from the Christie's success with the sales of other works by Basquiat in New York. Untitled (1984-1985) went for US $ 717,500 against
an estimate of US $ 350,000 while Rubber was sold at US $ 420,000. Untitled and Rubber had been offered for sale privately a few weeks before they were sent to Sotheby's but no collector was prepared to offer over US $ 400,000 for these.