A Major Painting “200 Yen” to Resurface by American Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

December 08 17:00 2023
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled 1982 was the most expensive work by Basquiat to ever sell at an auction.

A major painting “200 Yen”, sold at an auction online by LiveAuctioneers on April 21st, 2020 (lot 018), by Jean-Michel Basquiat, an American artist who rose to success during the 1980s as part of the Neo-expressionism movement will be coming soon to the top museums in the United States, who will be bidding to have it on their exhibition display.

As per the New York Art Forensics analysts Dr. Jeffrey Taylor and Thiago Piwowarczyk, the work on this painting makes references to themes preferred by Basquiat, such as colonization, commerce, racial discrimination, and oppression, in a historical context. The words “SAMO” refers to his recurrent tag since the beginning of his career, when Basquiat wrote the acronym, which stands for “Same Old Shit”, followed by cryptic and critic messages referring to the art establishment. “SAMO@” would continue to feature in some of his later works.

The reference to “200 YEN” matches the average exchange rate of the American Dollar to the Japanese Yen in 1982, which was seen as a rising dominating economy “colonizing” the early 1980’s hegemony. The Frase “TAX-FREE” and the rocket may be related to the Opium wars, as this topic was favored by Basquiat, as an example of forced economic submission. In the late 19th Century, England forced the Chinese to accept the sale of Opium in their territory, tax-free, by the Crown. The war that ensued culminated in battles involving the use of Congrave rockets, an Earl artillery rocket, that proved to be devastating and intimidating by contemporary accounts. With that, the author traces a parallel between the imposition of an addictive product upon a colonized people in the past and the modern dependence of the economy that the new colonizers imposed upon the West.

Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) was born into a middle-class family, the son of Gerard, a Haitian immigrant, and Mathilde, a Brooklyn Boricua. His rise to fame was meteoric and his works today command the world’s highest prices for an American artist. His expressionistic, radical work, which is infused with a call for the recognition of oppressed groups, denounces racism, colonization, and capitalist domination. In the late 1970s, Basquiat became a leading figure in the East Village. Artforum and The Village Voice interviewed him and wrote articles about him and soon, art dealers and gallery owners were fighting over him, among them Annina Nosei, Larry Gagosian, Bruno Bischofberger and Tony Shakrazi. His works soon began to be shown in America’s greatest museums, including the MOMA. In 2017, Untitled, a 1982 Painting depicting a black skull with red and yellow rivulets, sold for a record-breaking $110.5 million, becoming one of the most expensive works by Basquiat to ever sell at an auction.

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