Profiles of notable people of color + their creations.
On May 20th, black artist Jean-Michel Basquiat’s painting “Untitled” sold for an unprecedented $110.5 million. “Untitled” depicts an enraged human face, one that seems to embody ethnic resistance in the form of the artist’s head. The Brooklyn-born artist, hailed as a cultural icon before his death in 1988, has now been officially deemed the highest selling American artist at an auction. Named the “ultimate American artist,” Basquiat was well-known for his brutally honest portrayals of class struggle, colonialism, and systemic racism.
The buyer was Yusaku Maezawa, the founder of the Contemporary Art Foundation. His plans for the piece involve loaning it to various museums around the world.
“When I first encountered this painting, I was struck with so much excitement and gratitude for my love of art,” Maezawa stated in a post on Instagram. “I want to share that experience with as many people as possible.”
While there is still much more to be done in terms of ensuring inclusion for artists of color, there are those who say that Basquiat was able to “find a permanent place as a black painter in a white art world.” The sale of Basquiat’s painting indicates a newfound visibility within not only the consumer market, but the art world as well.
valerie wu is a student at presentation high school in san jose, california. she is an asian-american activist who thrives at the intersection of ethnicity, migration, & human rights. her work has previously been recognized nationally by the scholastic art & writing awards, and has been featured on the huffington post, susan cain's quiet revolution, and we are three dimensional. she tweets @valerie_wu.