The sale of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s proclaimed masterpiece Warrior is promised to be a milestone for the Western art market in Asia. The sales history of Warrior allows us to gain insight into the growth and performance of the Basquiat marketplace as well as assess the value of trophy works in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.

There are a couple of pronouncements by Christie’s that need to be put into context.

First, the designation of Warrior as a milestone sale from a western artist in the Asian market, though factually accurate is not without precedent, as the 2017 sale of Basquiat’s Untitled, 1982 for $110,487,500 was purchased by an Asian buyer (Yusaku Maezawa) and it is widely known that Asian collectors are active in the Basquiat market. The fact that buyers may purchase significant works by Basquiat in Hong Kong doesn’t seem like a milestone event, but more of an acknowledgment by Christie’s and their consignor that the Asian art market is a strong and vibrant marketplace for Basquait.

Second, we have Christie’s proclamation that Warrior is a masterpiece and it’s sale is expected to rank in the top 10 of all time results. While there has been no formal announcement, it is expected that there will be a guarantee on this sale which would assure that Warrior will indeed be in the top 10 prices ever achieved at auction for the artist. If we look back at Warrior’s sale in 2012 it was the 14th highest price achieved for Basquiat at the time and if we adjust all past sales by Basquiat’s Compound Annual Return (CAR), currently ARTBnk is using the median of the bottom 80% of Basquiat’s return distribution to generate his CAR, 22 works are valued at more than $40 million in today’s market. A $30 million dollar sale, although an extraordinary achievement, does not place Warrior in the top 20 works based on current market value of Basquait’s works previously sold at auction.

VR Sunil Gohil