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Is Basquiat the New Picasso?

Jean-Michel Basquiat circa 1985
Given Basquiat’s fame, it’s actually surprising that it has taken so long for his work to become so valuable. Photo: Rose Hartman/Getty Images
Marion Maneker
June 4, 2024

In May, nearly $125 million of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s art sold at auction, putting the late artist on pace to sell more than $200 million at auction this year. Over the past four years, works by Basquiat have racked up over a billion dollars in auction sales, representing a rise of about 21 percent over the previous four years. In the process, he appears to have posthumously turned an invisible corner. “He’s the new Picasso,” Phillips’ Contemporary art guru Jean-Paul Engelen told me. In other words, Basquiat has become the benchmark artist.

That’s partly because, while the Picasso market is supply constrained, Basquiat demand is building momentum. Sure, it’s unlikely that 2024 will approach previous banner years—$345 million was spent on his work in 2017, and $439 million in 2021—but Basquiat auction sales have achieved their highest average price since 2021, and the second-highest of any year for Basquiat.