0200 GMT May 21, 2022
The final bid of $37 million fell just below auction estimates, which pegged the painting to sell for between $40 million and $80 million, reported forbes.com.
‘The Guilt of Gold Teeth’ is one of a handful of works Basquiat produced during a months-long stay in Modena, Italy, considered one of the most pivotal periods of the artist’s career.
The painting depicts Baron Samedi, who in Haitian voodoo tradition escorts the souls of the dead to the other side — but besides dying, he’s linked to revelry and safekeeping, “just as much about life as about death,” according to auction house Christie’s.
Basquiat, whose father was from Haiti, portrayed versions of the figure in several of his paintings, and ‘The Guilt of Gold Teeth’ is one of the earliest examples.
Like his other work, Basquiat put playful references to the cultures around him in ‘The Guilt of Gold Teeth’ — the word “ASPURIA,” scrawled at the top left of the canvas, is believed by Christie’s to be a take on “aspirare,” Italian for “to aspire.”
The painting was last sold at auction in 1998, when it fetched $387,500, slightly less than the auction estimate of $400,000 to $500,000.
It was during Basquiat’s trip to Modena in 1982 that the artist began to form the visual narrative of being a Black man in the U.S. that became a recurring theme in his work, according to Christie’s. The other paintings Basquiat completed during that year are some of his most well-known and expensive. ‘Untitled,’ painted in 1982, sold for a jaw-dropping $110 million in 2017 to Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, the most of any of his works to date. In second place is ‘Untitled (Devil),’ which sold for $57.3 million in 2016 and was also painted during the artist’s 1982 trip to Modena.
Basquiat’s work is having a renaissance more than three decades after his sudden death at age 27. In March, Basquiat’s 1982 piece ‘Warrior’ became the most-expensive painting by a Western artist to be auctioned off in Asia when it sold in Hong Kong for $42 million. ‘Versus Medici,’ painted by Basquiat in 1982, fetched $50.8 million at auction in May.