One of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s finest full-length male figures from his series of grand-scale paintings that took the art world by storm in the early 1980’s – Untitled (One Eyed Man or Xerox Face – will lead Sotheby’s Contemporary Art evening auction in London on March 8. It was last sold at auction for $23,100 in 1987 one year before the artists death. It is now estimated at £14-§8 million.
Basquiat’s heroic male figures, always depicted with both arms raised aloft, and often shown with a studded halo or roughly pronged crown, formed the centrepiece of almost all the artist’s most important early works. Often based on the black athletes whose prowess allowed them to transcend racial boundaries in mid-20th century America, these figures were of huge personal importance to the artist. As a young black man raised in a middle-class family in Brooklyn, he readily felt the effects of racial segregation in art history: “I realised that I didn’t see many paintings with black people in them”.
Alex Branczik, Head of Contemporary Art, Sotheby’s Europe said: “The hero figures in Basquiat’s paintings refer to the stars of sporting, musical and artistic worlds who, thanks to their extraordinary talents, transcended their social status to become the nation’s icons. Painted with their arms held aloft and wearing a crown of thorns they also reflect Basquiat’s own dramatic ascent from street artist to gallery sensation, and to his present status as one of the most valuable and talked about artists in the world.”