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Jean-Michel Basquiat Leads Sotheby's $250.5m 'Contemporary Evening Auction' in New York

3 min read  · 16 Nov 2023

Self-Portrait as a Heel (Part Two) by Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for $42m. Image courtesy of Sotheby's

A work by Jean-Michel Basquiat, which had a guarantee, was the headline sale at Sotheby's 'Contemporary Evening Auction' on November 15 in New York.

  • The sale totaled $250.5m, meeting the pre-sale estimate.

Snapshot of the sale

  • 43 works sold totaling $250.5m.

  • Estimates totaled: $202m (low) and $289.2m (high), excluding premiums.

  • The sell-through rate was 93% of the original 46 lots announced.

The star lot was: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Self-Portrait as a Heel (Part Two) (1982), which sold for $42m, 5% above its $40m low estimate. The work was backed by a guarantee. It has been traded 5 times in the past.

The outperformer sold for 700% above its low estimate. Barbara Chase-Riboud, La Musica / Amnesia (1990), sold for $647,700 ($80,000 low estimate), an auction record for the artist. It has been traded twice in the past.

A talking point was Joan Mitchell Sunflowers (1990-91), which sold for $27.91m, an auction record for the artist, 39% above its $20m low estimate. The work was backed by a guarantee. A gift from the artist, it has not been traded before.

Breakdown of results against auction house estimates that are disclosed

  • 22 works, or 51%, sold above their high estimate.

  • 13 works, or 30%, sold within their low and high estimate.

  • 8 works, or 19%, sold below their low estimate.

  • 0 sold with undisclosed estimates.

Guaranteed sales

30 works were backed by guarantees, including: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Self-Portrait as a Heel (Part Two) (1982), which sold for $42m.

Works that did not sell

3 works were bought-in, including: Ed Ruscha, Etc. (1990), estimated at $3m (low) to $4m (high). It has been traded 3 times in the past.

Withdrawn before the sale

0 works were withdrawn

Terms and definitions

All results include the fees and premiums added to the price of a work of art when the auctioneer's hammer falls. Sale prices are compared to the auction house’s low estimate, which do not include premiums.

Guarantees: Sometimes an auction house guarantees to pay a seller for a work, regardless of whether the bidding reaches the reserve price, a figure that is typically confidential.

Bought-in: If there are no bids for a work, or if bidding falls short of the reserve price, the lot is unsold or “bought-in”.

Withdrawn: This happens when a seller decides, for whatever reason, to withdraw a work before the bidding begins.

Premiums: Typically a sliding-scale of charges paid in addition to the hammer price by the buyer, plus any other fees.


Jean-Michel Basquiat

New York