1. NEW YORK (AFP).- A 1982 untitled Basquiat sold for $110.5 million in New York on Thursday, setting a new auction record for the US artist in Sotheby's flagship post-war and contemporary art sale, the auction house said.
Jean-Michel Basquiat, the US wonderkid of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent, who died in 1988 of an overdose at the age of 27, has been catapulted into the rostrum of 20th century greats by the rising value of his work.
A tense bidding war lasted for around 10 minutes between a client in Sotheby's New York showroom and another on the telephone, with the telephone buyer ultimately clinching the top bid.
The skull-like head on a giant canvas in oil-stick, acrylic and spray paint called "Untitled" was the star lot of the May auction season in New York and had been valued pre-sale in excess of $60 million.
Loud cheers and applause greeted the conclusion of the sale, which almost doubled the previous Basquiat record of $57 million, set for a self-portrait snapped up by a Japanese billionaire at Christie's last year.
Thursday's canvas was last bought in 1984 at Christie's for $19,000.
Sotheby's auctioneer opened bids Thursday at $57 million and offered occasional moments of levity and encouragement to the bidders.
"It's a great masterpiece at $98 million dollars," he said to laughter in the room shortly before the bidding war concluded. The $110.5 million price tag includes the buyer's premium.
At least 14 works from the Brooklyn-born artist were on sale at Christie's and Sotheby's this week.
The subject of much of his work -- ordeals endured by blacks in America -- is finding renewed resonance in the wake of nationwide US protests since 2014 about the shootings of unarmed black men by police.
Rival auction house Christie's sold Basquiat's "La Hara" -- a 1981 acrylic and oil-stick of an angry-looking New York police officer -- for $35 million on Wednesday, eclipsing its $22-28 million estimate.
Pablo Picasso holds the world record for the most expensive piece of art ever sold at auction. His "The Women of Algiers (Version 0)" fetched $179.4 million at Christie's in New York in 2015.
2. TOKYO (AFP).- With a single post on Instagram, Yusaku Maezawa announced not only his purchase of an $110.5 million Basquiat masterpiece, and his place in auction history, but arguably signalled a new era for art in Japan.
The price, a record for the artist, is reminiscent of 1980s Japan when corporate big-spenders splashed out on Impressionist art -- along with foreign property and businesses -- in an asset-buying spree.
But billionaire Maezawa insists he is just an "ordinary collector" -- despite his extraordinary bank balance. His purchases are born out of love and driven by gut instinct, rather than the instructions of any art advisor.
"I buy simply because they are beautiful. That's all. I enjoy classics together with the history and stories behind them, but possessing classics is not the purpose of my purchase," he told AFP.
Rather than squirrel away his latest purchase -- Jean-Michel Basquiat's 1982 "Untitled", a skull-like head in oil-stick, acrylic and spray paint on a giant canvas -- he plans to loan it out to galleries worldwide.
"I hope it brings as much joy to others as it does to me, and that this masterpiece by the 21-year-old Basquiat inspires our future generations," he said after the New York sale last month.
He's the one
The 41-year-old's style is a step change from the corporate image of Japan's traditional art collectors who possess paintings as investment tools or to cement their social status.
Paper tycoon Ryoei Saito, who bought Vincent Van Gogh's "Portrait of Dr Gachet" in 1990 for $82.5 million -- a then record -- and Pierre-Auguste Renoir's "Bal du Moulin de la Galette" for $78.1 million -- famously triggered outrage when he said he would have the canvases put in his coffin and cremated with him when he died. He later recanted.
"Many Japanese rushed to buy paintings for investment during the bubble economy," said Shinji Hasada, an official at Shinwa Art Auction, of the 1980s and 1990s boom period.
Customs figures showed works of art valued at $246 million were imported in 1985, but the figure shot up to $3.4 billion in 1990.
But many of the bubble-era masterpieces were sold off in a fire sale when the Japanese economy collapsed. Today Japan's art collection market has shrunk to around one-twentieth of its peak, Hasada explained.
And while collectors such as former chairman of publisher Benesse Soichiro Fukutake, who helped transform a remote island into an art haven, have bolstered interest, Hasada believes Maezawa could inject new life into the sector.
"In all eras of history, patrons have come out to boost the art world, and in that sense he is the modern one we have been waiting for," Hasada said.
An aspiring rock star as a teen, he moved on to selling music merchandise via mail order and then online. In 1998 Maezawa founded Start Today, which operates the nation's largest online fashion mall, ZOZOTOWN.
Today, he is 11th richest person in Japan with a fortune of $3.5 billion, according to business magazine Forbes.
Young artists' champion
His Instagram feed, where he proclaimed to the world that he was the one who purchased Basquiat's painting, is peppered with shots of his luxury living -- including private jets, yachts and designer watches, but also his beloved art.
Many traditional collectors are more secretive -- "Untitled" had previously not been seen in public for decades -- but Maezawa wants to engage a new generation with his passion -- some 73,000 people follow his posts.
"I think (Instagram) is helping promote contemporary art in terms of information sharing," he explains, adding that he has also uses social media to discover and buy pieces from new talent.
He founded the Contemporary Art Foundation in Tokyo, a boon for the city's talent who feel they have finally found a champion.
Yukimasa Ida, a 27-year-old contemporary artist who has won the foundation's special jury award, regards Maezawa as a "figurehead" of up-and-coming Japanese artists aiming to challenge the global artworld.
"He is an encouraging collector, of a kind that has been hardly seen in Japan ... in terms of fostering and influencing young artists," Ida told AFP.
Maezawa said he wanted to introduce upcoming artists to a broader audience.
"I'm happy that good works by young artists with limited chances will see the light of day by my purchasing them," he added.
Next he plans to open a museum in Chiba, east of Tokyo, which will display his collection, which includes works by Pablo Picasso, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and Jeff Koons.
It will also showcase his Basquiat pieces -- last year he paid $57.3 million for the artist's painting of a horned devil.
But he plans to tour "Untitled", which set a record for any US artist at auction, showcasing it at galleries around the world.
He said: "I wish to loan this piece — which has been unseen by the public for more than 30 years — to institutions and exhibitions around the world."
3. NEW YORK Art Auction Houses Offer Cash Advances
Perk allow collectors to quickly tap equity in valuable artwork and other collectibles consigned for sale
Sotheby’s Financial Services makes both cash advances against consignments and the traditional direct loans to clients.
Sotheby’s Financial Services makes both cash advances against consignments and the traditional direct loans to clients. Photo: iStockphoto/Getty Images
By Daniel Grant
Updated March 27, 2017 10:37 a.m. ET
Large auction houses have long offered loans to their “art rich, cash poor” clients, using a piece of art, jewelry or other collectible as collateral. But a growing number of both large and small auctioneers are taking it a step further and offering some clients a new perk: an interest-free cash advance on a piece consigned for sale.
The cash advance allows a person whose principal assets are illiquid—in the form of valuable artworks and other collectibles—to quickly tap the equity of those assets. This is especially appealing to collectors who have large short-term financial needs and can’t wait for that consigned painting, sculpture or necklace to actually sell—which can take months or even years, in some cases.
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And the perk can give auction houses a competitive advantage over art galleries—which typically don’t offer cash advances on consignments—by putting money in the seller’s pocket right away.
“Loans and advances against consignments are part of the industry that is growing the fastest,” says Thomas B. McCabe IV, vice president in charge of business development and private sales at Freeman’s auction house in Philadelphia.
Money on the Spot
The amount of an advance typically ranges from one-quarter to one-half of the estimated value of a consigned piece. The auction house takes physical possession of the artwork, and once the piece is sold, the seller receives the sale price less the advance, sales commission and other fees.
So, for instance, the consignor of piece estimated at $100,000 might receive an advance of $25,000 and, after a sale price of $100,000, an additional $55,000 (deducting a 20% commission).
Since auctioneers are more likely to pay an advance on pieces they expect to sell and sell well, a consignor may be in a stronger position to negotiate fees. Auctioneers also earn money from the buyer’s premiums—typically 12% to 25%—so they may be willing to take less on the seller’s end.
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But what if the artwork fails to sell at auction? The piece is likely to be offered at a subsequent sale, and interest on the advance may be charged, although that rarely happens. However, if a piece continues not to sell, the auction house may demand its money back or charge interest on the advance and call it a loan.
At Freeman’s auction house, for example, a consignor pays an annual interest rate of 10% on the unpaid balance of the advance after 35 days if an object hasn’t sold, according to the company’s written terms and agreements. The other option is just to return the advance within the 35 days without any penalty.
Mr. McCabe says cash advances are a “courtesy” available to certain consignors who make the request. “We’re not a bank or a pawnshop,” he says, but adds that the cash advances are incentives to prospective consignors in a competitive auction field. “We know there are other auctioneers out there who will advance the money if we don’t.”
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Case by Case
Decisions on giving advances tend to be on a case-by-case basis. A known client is somewhat more apt to receive an advance. A rare, sought-after item is more likely to bring the consignor an advance than one that’s not as assured of selling at auction or for a sizable price. “Jewelry is always popular and is likely to merit a higher advance than something that might not sell as easily, such as, say, something from antiquity,” says Joanne Porrino Mournet, executive vice president at auction house Doyle in New York.
Sotheby’s Financial Services makes both cash advances against consignments (generally, at 50% of the low estimate) and the traditional direct loans of no less than $1 million with renewable two-year terms. “We generally lend to clients who we’ve worked with in the past, whether as buyers or sellers,” says Jan Prasens, managing director of Sotheby’s Financial Services.
The perk doesn’t appear to be catching on with art dealers, however, who tend to not give cash advances on consigned pieces. “If you can guarantee that something will sell,” says Maxwell Davidson IV, senior director of Maxwell Davidson Gallery in New York, “you are confident enough to buy it outright, rather than take it on consignment and advance cash against a sale.”
Mr. Grant is a writer in Amherst, Mass. Email him at email@example.com.
Appeared in the March 27, 2017, print edition.