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Artist Index: Jean-Michel Basquiat

(American, 19601988) was one of the first African-American artists to reach international stature and wealth in the art world. The artist, who was known for his often temperamental personality, distinctive graphic style, biting social commentary, and fusion of multicultural symbols, had a short but prolific career. When he was 17 years old, Basquiat dropped out of school and began to create art. He originally gained fame for SAMO (“Same Old Shit”), his invented character. The artist began to paint on commercial items, t-shirts, buildings, and found materials in the late 1970s and the early 1980s. Basquiat, who was always conscious of his identity as an African-American artist, often included imagery addressing racial relations in America in his work.

Basquiat’s performance at auction against the S&P 500 Jean-Michel Basquiat vs S&P 500 (click for details)
Nearly 25 years after his death, the art market for Jean-Michel Basquiat continues to show signs of significant growth. During the 2012 season, Basquiat generated over US$161 million, reaching a sell-through rate of 85%. Three of his Top 5 sales occurred at auction this year, setting the record three successive times, and totaling US$62.8 million. Basquiat’s success at auction boosted him into the Top 10 artists by volume sold in 2012.

The graph above tracks Basquiat’s performance at auction against the S&P 500 over the past decade. Since 2002, Basquiat has consistently outperformed the S&P 500 with continual growth, even after the contraction of the market in 2009. In 2012, Basquiat’s index reached the 1,000 mark, a gain of over 110% since 2011, bolstered by record-breaking sales, a high average sale price, and a strong sell-through rate.

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Lindsey Lovern is an art market researcher for artnet Analytics.

Jonathan Yee is an art market researcher for artnet Analytics.

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