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Basquiat Sells for $41.9 Million at Christie’s in Hong Kong

“Warrior,” a 1982 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat that was said to symbolize the struggles of Black men in a white-dominated world, sold for $41.9 million, with fees, at Christie’s auction house in Hong Kong on Tuesday.

Although Christie’s said it was the highest price paid at auction for a Western artwork in Asia, that may be a technicality: At a Sotheby’s New York sale in 2017, the Japanese billionaire collector Yusaku Maezawa paid $110 million for Basquiat’s “Untitled.” It remains the artist’s auction record.

Estimated at $31 million to $41 million, “Warrior” was offered as an unusual single lot. It leads a week of 20th and 21st century livestreamed auctions at Christie’s and Sotheby’s in London and Paris, which also include an old master and a rediscovered van Gogh. Christie’s was betting on Basquiat’s global appeal to help energize the art market as it tried to emerge from the pandemic-year slump.

Annual art sales fell 22 percent, to $50 billion, in 2020, compared to 2019, with revenues from public auctions declining 30 percent to $17.6 billion, according to a recent report by UBS and Art Basel. Supply of top art works remains tight, with few distress sales or big estates on the horizon near term. Asking prices are astronomical, making it hard to close deals, dealers and auction executives said.

$69.3 million sale of a work by the digital artist Beeple at Christie’s earlier this month.

Credit…The Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, via Sotheby’s

Both Beeple and Basquiat “have a place,” said Alberto Mugrabi, the collector and dealer, whose father paid $250,000 for “Warrior” in the mid-1990s. “They are both in a category of very few artists. Beeple will bring a new audience to the art world and it’s an encouraging thing to see.”

While the outcome for Beeple’s work was unpredictable — bidding started at $100 — the Basquiat was a relatively safe bet for Christie’s, which was hoping to draw new people to the market from Asia. (The winning bid came from Christie’s Hong Kong representative.) The company guaranteed the seller an undisclosed minimum price and got an irrevocable bid from a third-party backer, ensuring the work would sell.

“Basquiat is one of the strongest markets coming out of the pandemic,” said Christophe van de Weghe, a dealer who specializes in Basquiats. “It’s worldwide. You can sell Basquiat, like Picasso, to someone in India or Kazakhstan or Mexico. You can have a 28-year-old spending millions on Basquiat and you can have a guy who is 85. He appeals to all kinds of people, from rappers to hedge-fund guys.’’

Basquiat explored issues of race and inequality with graffiti-inspired style, rising to the pinnacle of the contemporary art world from modest beginnings in street art. He dated Madonna, collaborated with Warhol and became a legend after dying at age 27 in 1988.

“Warrior” depicts a figure with fiery eyes and a raised sword against patches of blue and yellow. It was painted on a six-foot-tall wooden panel with oilstick, acrylic and spray paint in 1982. It has come up for auction four times, including Tuesday’s sale. It last appeared Sotheby’s in 2012, fetching $8.7 million. At the time it was bought by the real estate mogul Aby Rosen.

Christie’s declined to confirm that Rosen was the seller of “Warrior,” but its provenance indicates that the current owner bought the work in 2012. Rosen offered the work for sale privately last year, according to a dealer with firsthand knowledge of the sale. Rosen didn’t return emails seeking comment.

Basquiat’s 1982 painting “Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump” was among the highest known transactions of 2020. Bought by the billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin for more than $100 million, it has been hanging at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Although Basquiat was very prolific, there’s a limited supply of work: about 900 paintings and 3,400 works on paper. By contrast, Beeple’s record-setting “Everydays — the First 5000 Days,” comprised the 5,000 works the artist created over 13 and a half years.

Alex Rotter, Christie’s chairman of 20th and 21st century art, recently had a chance to realize the scope of Basquiat’s appeal while attending the Brooklyn Nets’s victorious game at the team’s arena on Feb. 25. Basquiat’s signature crown was on the court’s floor.

“I thought, ‘Wow! How cool is that!’” Rotter said this week, recalling the game when the Nets defeated the Orlando Magic. “Basquiat is everywhere.”

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JPG File Sells for $69 Million, as ‘NFT Mania’ Gathers Pace

Last month, buoyed by a $1.5 billion Bitcoin investment from Tesla, the electric-car company run by Elon Musk, and support from major institutional investors including hedge funds, the total value of cryptocurrencies hit a high of more than $1 trillion. The value of crypto-traded NFT art also soared, setting prices that are out of kilter with the rest of the art market.

Another Beeple piece, “Crossroad” — a 10-second video NFT showing animated pedestrians walking past a giant, naked likeness of Donald J. Trump, collapsed on the ground and covered in graffiti — sold for $6.6 million in Ether on Nifty Gateway. The seller was Miami-based art collector Pablo Rodriguez-Fraile, who had brought the piece in October for about $67,000, according to Reuters.

NFTs have also become a medium of choice for new performance artists. On Sunday, Burnt Banksy, an anonymous group of “tech and art enthusiasts,” sold a unique NFT consisting of a digital copy of a 2006 Banksy limited-edition print called “Morons.” The group claimed it had destroyed the original print, worth tens of thousands of dollars, in an “art burning ceremony,” shown on YouTube and Twitter. The blockchain-certified “Morons” NFT was all that remained.

Offered on Open Sea, this digital copy of the Banksy sold for about $382,000, more than three times the price that any of the original “Morons” prints have made at auction. The successful bidder was an Open Sea user with the screen name GALAXY, who immediately put the piece up for sale.

Although their popularity has increased in recent months, NFTs are nothing new. In 2017, when the value of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and Ethereum first began to climb, there was a speculative craze for Dapper Labs’ CryptoKitties, blockchain-certified images of cats, the rarest of which sold for more than $100,000.

The price of cryptocurrencies collapsed in 2018, and with it the nascent market for NFTs. But now Dapper Labs has recapitalized and collaborated with the National Basketball Association to create N.B.A. Top Shot, a marketplace for digital highlight clips that are the tech equivalent of baseball cards. On Thursday, these had raised $345 million in sales, mostly in the past 30 days, according to Cryptoslam, a site that tracks the prices of NFTs.

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Counting the Toll of the Pandemic, by the Numbers

GE Capital was supercharged under Jack Welch, who turned the financing unit into a lending colossus that helped power years of enviable earnings. But GE Capital nearly capsized its parent with its bets on risky home mortgages and its dependence on short-term funding that dried up after the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

GE Capital isn’t quite gone yet. The division will still own an insurance business with $50 billion in assets and a small equipment-leasing operation. But following the close of the aircraft-leasing deal, G.E. will no longer report it as a separate operating unit, putting the focus on G.E.’s remaining manufacturing businesses.

Wall Street is of two minds about the move. Shares in G.E. fell 6 percent yesterday, while S&P downgraded the conglomerate’s credit rating one notch. But Moody’s said the transaction wouldn’t hurt G.E.’s creditworthiness, and some investors praised the deal: “It feels like a smart move strategically,” said Daniel Babkes of Pzena Investment Management.


Lauren Hobart took over as C.E.O. of Dick’s last month, becoming only the third leader in the retailer’s 70-plus-year history. Ms. Hobart took over from Ed Stack, the son of its founder, who is now executive chairman. DealBook caught up with Ms. Hobart in her first interview since taking the top job.

“The pandemic changed us radically and I think for the better,” Ms. Hobart said. The company had already moved its digital operations in-house, which allowed it to shift quickly as its stores were forced to close. “The team spun up curbside pickup for the first time in two days,” she said. “It was a project that would have taken 12 to 18 months before.” An uptick in demand for golf equipment and at-home fitness gear has bolstered the company’s earnings, with sales last year up 10 percent.

Women are a focus for the retailer, and a growing part of the sportswear business in general. Dick’s launched a campaign this week featuring women in sports — and in business. As part of the campaign, Dick’s is donating 100,000 sports bras to female athletes in need. Ms. Hobart and other women who serve as managers at the company are featured in the campaign.

Predicting the path ahead is difficult. “Forecasting for 2021, I think, for all business, is very challenging,” Ms. Hobart said. The company issued somewhat muted sales guidance to investors this week, but Ms. Hobart expects that some pandemic trends, like the rising interest in golf, will stick. “It’s so uncertain to know how the consumer is going to respond,” she said. “We’re just taking one day at a time.”


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