Jean-Michel Basquiat: ARTBnk Market Report

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Jean-Michel Basquiat: ARTBnk Market Report
Seven works purchased at auction since the year 2000 were resold during the time period of analysis.

NEW YORK, NY.- On March 23rd, Christie’s Hong Kong will offer a single lot sale, shining the spotlight on Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Warrior, having touted the 1982 painting as potentially the most expensive Western artwork to be sold at auction in Asia. With this highly publicized sale approaching, ARTBnk examined Basquiat’s sale results from Sotheby’s, Christie's, and Phillips that took place from June through December 2020 in order to breakdown recent performance across the low, middle, and high value segments of the market.


At the end of March 2020 the ARTBnk Value algorithm was adjusted based on a number of broad based economic indicators. This resulted in ARTBnk Values in aggregate being reduced by 20% from values prior to the pandemic. As the chart illustrates below, sale totals for sold artworks by Jean-Michel Basquiat over the timeframe analyzed nearly matched their aggregated pre-sale ARTBnk Values, while moderately underperforming the auction house estimates. With sales totalling $95,055,761 falling short of the aggregated pre-sale ARTBnk Value totals of $95,926,058 by the thin margin of -0.9%, in contrast to a -8.9% dip below aggregate auction house buyer's premium adjusted mean estimates.

Explaining Outliers

It’s not uncommon that a handful of lots achieve results well above market expectations, but these outliers are generally not representative of an overall market shift for an artist. Notably, only 1 of the 25 sold works in this report achieved this status, though it was also the work with the single lowest sold price. While the impact of this sale on the artist’s totals is practically insignificant, what is important to note as we further break down results across price points is the absence of strong performance in any market sector.
High End Market

The aggregate sold price for Basquiat’s high end market, represented in this analysis by works with sold prices greater than $1m, once again fell right in line with pre-sale aggregate ARTBnk Value but underperformed the buyer’s premium adjusted mean estimate. The high end market saw sold price totals edge aggregate pre-sale ARTBnk Values by just 0.5%, while falling -7% below BP-adjusted mean auction estimates.

Middle Market

Lots achieving a sold price between $100k and $1m, representing the middle market, saw a slight underperformance of sold price totals relative to the aggregated pre-sale ARTBnk Values, but continued the trend of a more pronounced underperformance relative to buyer’s premium adjusted mean estimates. The aggregated sold price of $68,370,861 fell short of the aggregate presale ARTBnk Value of $71.392.440 by -4.2%, but against the buyer's premium adjusted mean estimate the results were -11.7% below auction house expectations.

Low End Market

No lots sold in the low end market, represented by lots achieving sold prices below $100k, though it is notable that the single high outlier in sold price performance, Untitled (Braile Teeth), sold in Sotheby’s Oct. 1st sale of the personal collection of Keith Haring for $100,800 over an auction house estimate of $25k-$35k, riding it’s provenance but only narrowly meeting ARTBnk’s qualifications for middle market status as a work sold between $100k and $1m. As previously mentioned, Untitled (Braile Teeth) was the lowest selling work in this analysis and achieved the highest performance.

Buy-in Rate

Given Basquiat’s long and frequent history of sales, the unusually high 34% buy-in rate for the period is a clear indication that auction house and seller expectations are higher than the current traders in the market are willing to support. The majority of bought in lots (11 of 14) occurred in the middle market.

Repeat Sales

Seven works purchased at auction since the year 2000 were resold during the time period of analysis. All seven works sold for more than their previous purchase price, generating positive Compound Annual Returns (CARs). Untitled (Head) was the standout repeat sale performer, having initially sold in November of 2000 for $396,000 and selling again at Sotheby’s June Contemporary Evening Auction for $15,184,900, generating an impressive 20.6% CAR, the highest of any Basquiat repeat sale. With no repeat sale generating a CAR of less than 4.4%, collectors willing to part with a Basquiat amidst the financial turmoil of 2020 still managed to gather a return on their initial investment, a testament to the artist’s staying power. The mean CAR for Basquiat 's 2020 repeat sales was 13.8%, confirming that ARTBnk Value algorithms using the bottom 80% CAR of 14.4% to adjust all previously sold works during the pandemic was an accurate decision.


Firmly entrenched in the consciousness of the art world since embodying the New York art scene of the 80s and with the highly publicized March 21st sale of Warrior looming, the star power of Jean-Michel Basquiat is not in question. With that said, recent performance so closely in line with pandemic adjusted pre-sale ARTBnk Values coupled with underperformance against aggregate auction house estimates across market sectors proves that Basquiat’s cultural cachet was not enough to keep the effects of 2020 at bay. And yet, collectors willing to offer a Basquiat at auction this past year still fared decently considering the bleak circumstances, with all repeat sales generating positive CARs. Simply put, auction house expectations may have been set a bit high, though collectors tuned into ARTBnk Values prior to these sales occurring knew what to expect. One can be sure that as the 2021 auction year unfolds and the art market attempts to rebound from the past year, Jean-Michel Basquiat will remain an undeniable difference maker in the market and ARTBnk will continue to be the source of insight before and after sales take place.

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