Ken Griffin, the king of hedge funds, bought a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat for over $ 100 million. According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, its assets are worth $ 15.3 billion. Griffin is also a great art collector. The works in his collection are in several museums. A spokesman said that “He intends to share this piece too.”
Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump
The canvas is “Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump“, made in the magical year of the black Picasso, 1982. According to Baer Faxt, the seller is Peter Brant. He is an industrialist and entrepreneur and new neighbor of Griffin’s home in Palm Beach, who last year organized a major exhibition of the artist in his private museum in Manhattan. “Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump” was among the 70 works on display.
Basquiat at auction
In May 2017, a Basquiat painting was auctioned by Sotheby’s for $ 110.5 million, setting the record for the artist. “Untitled”, from 1982, had been awarded to a buyer on the phone from Asia for $ 110,487,500. The anonymous comparator later turned out to be Yusaku Maezawa. He is a young Japanese businessman who founded the Contemporary Art Foundation and the largest online Japanese fashion store, Zozotown. Already the previous year, he had bought another record-breaking Basquiat from Christie’s.
What is most surprising about this private sale is the moment in which it took place. It would in itself be an essential event during a so to speak “normal” period. But in this post-pandemic historical moment when the art market has been stuck for several months, and private transactions have mostly remained below $ 5 million, according to dealers and auction house executives makes this even more impressive sale.
Among the works purchased by Griffin, there are also works by Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. In particular, this Basquiat joins works by female and African American artists. Those include Lee Krasner, Isa Genzken, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, and Virgil Abloh.
Jean-Michel Basquiat and New York graffiti
Jean-Michel Basquiat signed himself under the pseudonym SAMO (Same Old Shit) to tag in the streets of Manhattan. Across the walls and subways of New York, graffiti loaded with poetic messages challenged capitalism. His taste for cultural mix and his hatred for racism give life to a neo-expressionist work.
In 1978 Jean-Michel sold to Warhol some postcards he illustrated in a Manhattan restaurant. The two had a common idea of art understood as “open, popular, public” and non-elitist. Pop Art speaks a language that everybody knows. It is that of the mass media, that transforms everyday objects into artistic images.
The turning point in Basquiat’s life begins precisely from this meeting with Warhol, who later welcomes him to his factory, becoming his tutelary deity. Poet, musician, and graffiti prodigy, in the late 70s, he improved his graphic style of obsessive doodles and elusive symbols.
Basquiat drew his subjects from his Caribbean heritage – his father was Haitian and his mother of Puerto Rican origin – and a convergence of African American, African and Aztec cultural stories with classic themes and contemporary heroes such as athletes and musicians. Often associated with neo-expressionism, Basquiat has received high acclaim in a few years, showing itself alongside artists such as Julian Schnabel and David Salle.