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Basquiat’s Stretcher-Bar Painting Expected to Fetch $30m in New York Spring Auctions

Next month, a significant artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat, titled “The Italian Version of Popeye has no Pork in his Diet,” will be up for auction at Christie’s in New York. Executed in 1982 during the artist’s peak year, the painting features Basquiat’s iconic imagery, including a crown, a wide-eyed face, and cascades of text, on canvases with visible stretcher bars.

The 5ft-by-5ft masterpiece, originating from a private collection in New York, last appeared publicly in Milan in 2006-07. Christie’s has provided an estimated value of around $30 million for the artwork, which will be part of the evening auction of 21st-century art at its Rockefeller Center headquarters on May 14.

Alex Rotter, Christie’s chairman of 20th- and 21st-century art, hailed the painting as Basquiat’s finest stretcher-bar work. He described the composition as frenzied and plentiful, showcasing Basquiat’s adeptness in mixing symbols, text, and portraiture, drawing inspiration from various historical, sports, and contemporary media influences.

Basquiat enthusiasts with deep pockets will have multiple opportunities to acquire significant works by the artist during the upcoming spring sales in New York. Phillips will offer two paintings, including the 1982 trophy “Untitled (ELMAR),” estimated to fetch between $40 million and $60 million, and the 1981 canvas “Untitled (Portrait of a Famous Ballplayer),” expected to bring in $6.5 million to $8.5 million.

Sotheby’s will present a large collaborative work from Basquiat’s series with Andy Warhol, the 13ft-wide “Untitled (1984),” with an estimated value of around $18 million.

The surge of Basquiat artworks hitting the auction block coincides with the enduring presence of the artist’s name and work in the art world. Gagosian gallery currently hosts a major exhibition of Basquiat’s works made in Los Angeles, while legal proceedings continue following a 2022 Basquiat forgery scandal at the Orlando Museum of Art. Additionally, anticipation builds for an upcoming documentary about Basquiat, co-produced by American-football star Travis Kelce, which may introduce the late New York artist to a new audience.

Distinctive Characteristics of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Artworks

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