This Andy Warhol x Jean-Michel Basquiat Collaborative Painting Will Fetch Millions At Auction

Warhol and Basquiat’s infamous collab “Untitled” is a coveted collector’s object.


When the legendary collaboration between Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat debuted at Tony Shafrazi Gallery in 1985, art critics let it rip. They called the work “inconclusive,” decried Warhol for leeching off Basquiat, and insinuated the upstart talent was ingratiating himself to Warhol in return.

This May, nearly 40 years later, one of the 160 artworks the duo composed will headline Sotheby’s Contemporary Evening Sale in New York, where it’s expected to fetch $18 million, outdoing the collaboration’s current champ, Zenith (1985), which sold for $11.4 million in 2014.

Basquiat fervor is alive and well. Art collectors, dealers, and auction houses are anxious to get their hands on any and all inventory that they can. In fact, the appetite for both these iconic artists—who met in 1983 courtesy of Swiss art dealer Bruno Bischofberger—simply keeps soaring.

Warhol set his current auction record just two years ago, when Christie’s sold the timeless image of Shot Sage Blue Marilyn (1964) for $195 million. Meanwhile, market database reports confirm that interest in Basquiat has skyrocketed online over the past two decades.

One would hope that interest arises from fans’ emotional resonance with Basquiat’s paintings first and foremost. Basquiat, however, now symbolizes much more than his work. He was a self taught artist who infiltrated elite art circles with individualism, raw emotion, and charm—one of those rare figures to reach peak fame and while retaining an edge. His relationship with Warhol has spawned an acclaimed play and a feature film in the past few years alone.

In an article, Sotheby’s Chairman of Contemporary Art Gregoire Billault suggests that the renewed interest in Basquiat’s once-spurned collaboration with Warhol shows mostly that society’s getting smarter. 


“The collaborative works are now, rightfully, seen as a landmark and an integral part of both artists’ bodies of work, synthesizing their contrasting styles and visions with total iconoclasm,” he says. “The series showcases not only the distinctive genius of two singular artists, but also an entirely new artistic voice created in a momentary flash that would never again be replicated.”  

Basquiat and Warhol only co-created for two years. They never worked together in person, instead preferring to mail canvases back and forth, layering new additions each time. There’s a clear juxtaposition between Warhol’s style, which favored control, and Basquiat’s, harnessing chaos. Many liken the dynamic to call and response.

On Untitled, Warhol includes brand names and ad copies alongside Basquiat’s iconic forms. “½” appears throughout, perhaps alluding to their age difference. The duo’s collaboration came to a close due to their show’s tepid reception.

The gargantuan and gorgeous Untitled is a sure standout amongst the series. It appeared in the Fondation Louis Vuitton’s massive  show around the collab last year, which then traveled to Brant Foundation in New York, likely on-loan from whoever scooped the work at auction for $2.65 million in 2010.

Sotheby’s declined to comment on why the work’s up for sale again. Who knows what the next owner will do. Untitled is set to cross the auction block this May in New York.