Basquiat's Gaunt Tribal King Sells for $45.3 Million at Phillips

(Bloomberg) -- A painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat fetched $45.3 million in Thursday’s auction at Phillips.

“Flexible” was among the most anticipated artworks of the evening sale of 20th century art at the smaller rival to Sotheby’s and Christie’s. Painted on wooden slats in 1984, it depicts a striking, gaunt black figure, thought to be a tribal king, with arms interlocked above his head. The 8 1/2-foot-tall work was estimated at $20 million and sold by the artist’s estate. It was bought by a client of Miety Heiden, head of private sales.

The piece helped lure a host of billionaires to the boutique auction house’s preview, including Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH, hedge fund manager Steve Cohen and Japanese online retailer Yusaku Maezawa, who paid a record $110 million for another Basquiat last year. It also drew interest from Hollywood mogul David Geffen and brothers Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, who were the underbidders to Maezawa.

Unlike many of the most valuable lots, the painting was offered without a guarantee or third-party backing. On Wednesday at Sotheby’s, Basquiat’s “Flesh and Spirit” sold for $30.7 million.

See also: Basquiat’s ‘Flesh and Spirit’ fetches $30.7 million

Later in the sale of 20th century art at Phillips, a monumental canvas by Robert Motherwell sold for $12.7 million with fees, a record for an Abstract Expressionist artist. Titled “At Five in the Afternoon,” it had been estimated at $13 million to $16 million.

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