Art | May 29, 2017 9:49 am

Why Japanese Billionaire ‘Decided to Go For It’ for $110 Million Basquiat Masterpiece

Yusaku Maezawa refused to be outbid as auction unfolded at Sotheby's New York.

Jean-Michel Basquiat Painting Sells for Record $110.5 Million
Jean-Michel Basquiat, 'Untitled,' 1982 (Sotheby's/© 2017 The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat/ADAGP, Paris/ARS)

Watching on his laptop from Tokyo as the bidding frenzy passes $60 million for artist Jean-Michael Basquiat’s 1982 “Untitled” skull painting, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa “decided to go for it.”

Maezawa told The New York Times that he realized at that point the enormous value of the work and started relaying bids on his iPhone.

As RealClearLife previously reported, Maezawa’s winning bid shattered the auction record for an American artist—as well as the highest-ever auction price for a contemporary work post-1980.

That brings the Brooklyn-born, African-American artist, who died of a heroin overdose at the age of 27, into rarified air of pricelessness alongside noted artists Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon.

“It’s an artist who we missed,” Museum of Modern Art curator Ann Temkin told the Times. “We didn’t bring his paintings into the collection during his life or thereafter.”

Maezawa is planning on doing something about that previous lack of respect for the contemporary artist—adding his Basquiats to a museum he’s going to build in his hometown of Chiba. “I want to show beautiful things and share them with everyone,” he said. “It would be a waste just to keep it all to myself.”

Maezawa, 41, paid the previous high price for the artist last year, $57.3 million for another work.

The one-time rock musician, who started his own company in 1998, owns the online fashion mall Zozotown, and has a net worth of about $3.5 billion. He has emerged as one of the biggest new players in the art collecting world.

When asked, though, if he’d buy another Basquiat, Maezawa quipped: “Don’t you think two is enough?”