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Skull Painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat Sells for Nearly $111 Million

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Jean-Michel Basquiat began his career as a humble New York street artist in the late 1970s—but a recent record-breaking sale at Sotheby’s auction house ensured that the painter’s name will be mentioned in the same breath as Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol, and other modernist greats.

As The New York Times reports, a 1982 work by Basquiat—a scrawling, large-scale painting of a skull—fetched nearly $111 million at a contemporary art auction last night, cementing its creator as one of America’s highest-grossing artists. The untitled painting’s new owner is Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese e-commerce billionaire who collects art.

As CNN reports, Maezawa is constructing an art museum in the city of Chiba, near Tokyo. In the past year, he’s shelled out $230 million for works of contemporary art to place on display. One of them was another untitled Basquiat painting, which the entrepreneur purchased from Christie’s in May 2016 for more than $57 million. (That deal marked a previous auction high for Basquiat, which Maezawa has now broken on his own.)

Both Basquiat works will go in Maezawa’s new museum—but before placing his newest purchase in its permanent home, he plans to loan it to institutions and exhibitions around the world. "I hope it brings as much joy to others as it does to me, and that this masterpiece by the 21-year-old Basquiat inspires our future generations,” the collector said in a statement [PDF].

That said, the skull painting’s price—not its new owner—is what’s making headlines. The work was last sold in May 1984 for $19,000, and has been “virtually unseen” since then, according to Sotheby’s. But on May 18, the painting became the most expensive work produced by any American artist, and the sixth most expensive work ever sold at auction. It set other records, too, including highest price fetched for any artwork by an African-American artist.

Basquiat—who died from a drug overdose when he was 27 years old—achieved fame during his short lifetime. But several decades after his death, his vision is more poignant than ever: In 2016, the artist became the highest-grossing American artist at auction, after 80 of his works sold for nearly $172 million. And now, he’s entered a new league of fame.

“Here he is, blazing a trail not only in terms of the market but also in terms of how his work is perceived more widely,” African-American artist Adam Pendleton told The New York Times. “It speaks to the broader elements of American culture. And what a powerful moment to have that happen.”

[h/t The New York Times]

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This Just In
Amazon Is Rolling Out ‘Instant Pickup Stations’ In Several U.S. Cities
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othree, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Much of what you’ll find on Amazon.com can be purchased at a brick-and-mortar book shop, department store, or convenience store in your neighborhood or nearby. Part of what makes the retail site so appealing is that it gives you the option to shop online without leaving your bedroom. Now, more than two decades after its inception, Amazon has come full-circle. As Mashable reports, the tech giant is testing “Instant Pickup” stations for shoppers who can’t wait for shipping.

The new program evolved out of Amazon’s existing delivery system. The company already has lockers around the country that customers can set as their shipping address. Now Amazon Lockers near college campuses in Berkeley, California; College Park, Maryland; Columbus, Ohio; Boston, and Los Angeles are being outfitted with digital kiosks that allow visitors to pick up goods moments after they’re ordered.

To make a purchase through Instant Pickup, Prime members can browse through the products available at their closest station through the Amazon app. Inventory varies, but it typically includes most of the essentials you’d find at a convenience store like snacks, drinks, and school supplies. Tech supplies like cables and headphones are also often in stock.

After you select the item you wish to buy, a barcode will pop up in the app. Holding the barcode beneath the onsite scanner will open a locker with your purchase inside. While the transaction does require you to leave the house, it maintains one key trait of online shopping: zero human interaction. Amazon's Director of Student Programs Ripley MacDonald told Mashable that that aspect is intentional. He said, "The original concept had a desk instead of these lockers, and the feedback they [the students] gave us was 'I don't want to talk to people, I want to do it on my phone.'"

This isn’t Amazon’s first venture outside the digital sphere. In the past few years the brand has opened eight physical bookstores and plans to open five more.

Amazon shoppers who prefer the instant gratification of in-person purchases without the chit-chat at the cash register can keep an eye out for more Instant Pickup station popping up around the country. Lincoln Park, Chicago will be the experiment’s next location, followed by more throughout the year.

[h/t Mashable]

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This Just In
London's Big Ben to Cease Chiming Until 2021
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Starting in late August, one of London’s largest—and noisiest—national symbols will go silent: As BBC News reports, Big Ben (which has rung on the hour for 157 years) will cease chiming until 2021. The measure is intended to protect workers completing restoration work on both the clock and its surrounding structure.

Big Ben will still chime on New Year’s Eve, Remembrance Sunday (a UK holiday that honors veterans), and other special occasions, but its last hourly bong will sound on Monday, August 21. Meanwhile, scaffolding has already been erected around the clock tower, and repairs have begun.

The clock tower last received extensive conservation work in the early 1980s. Officials say that the clock’s hands, pendulum, and inner workings all have problems “which need to be dealt with immediately to ensure that the clock can continue to work properly,” according to Parliament’s official website.

“Surveys are still being carried out to identify the extent of the works required to the tower itself, but we have already identified areas of concern, including cracks in masonry, leaks, erosion, and severe rusting of metalwork,” officials added. “There is a risk that if not addressed as a matter of urgency, the clock may fail or [structural] problems may become acute.”

Big Ben’s clock will be dismantled piece by piece, so its four dials can be cleaned and fixed. Its faces will be temporarily covered, but an electric motor will continue to drive the clock hands so it can keep telling time. Architects also plan to modernize the clock tower by making it more energy-efficient, and adding an elevator, toilet, and kitchen.

"This essential program of works will safeguard the clock on a long-term basis, as well as protecting and preserving its home—the Elizabeth Tower," the clock's keeper Steve Jaggs told the BBC.

For the uninitiated, the name “Big Ben” is often used to describe the tower, the clock, and the bell, but it originally described the largest of the clock’s five bells, which stands more than 7 feet tall and weighs more than 14 tons. As for the clock’s surrounding tower, it was dubbed Elizabeth Tower in 2012, to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s 60-year reign.

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