A Jean-Michel Basquiat triptych from 1983 is anticipated to fetch $45,000,000

Mr. Basquiat’s painting, depicting the narrative of the African diaspora through numerous figures and a boat, will be presented at Christie’s Spring Marquee Week.

May 10, 2023: Following the sale of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s In This Case, which exceeded expectations and brought in US$93.1 million, Christie’s is all set to auction another masterpiece by the same artist. El Gran Espectaculo (The Nile), also known as “History of the Black People”, will headline Christie’s  21st Century Evening Sale, taking place on May 15, 2023 live at Rockefeller Center.

El Gran Espectaculo The Nile Jean-Michel Basquiat

El Gran Espectaculo (The Nile), one of Mr. Basquiat’s best works, depicting masks with bared teeth, various figures, and a boat, alludes to different perspectives of the world, from racism to his personal trajectory. Mr. Basquiat was 22 years old when he created this triptych to address issues with the portrayal of the African diaspora within the broader context of world history through a slow transition of ancient Egypt to the modern world. 

Previously owned by esteemed gallerist, collector, and book publisher Enrico Navarra, the work has been exhibited in numerous critically acclaimed retrospectives of Mr. Basquiat’s work, including the first posthumous solo survey at a museum (and first American retrospective) organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1992, which later traveled to the Menil Collection, Houston; Des Moines Art Center, Iowa; and Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts; as well as the 2005 Brooklyn Museum of Art retrospective. 

The work stands among the most historically and intellectually important examples from Mr. Basquiat’s limited body of work and is expected to fetch US$45,000,000. Proceeds from the sale will benefit the Accademia Valentino.

Isabella Lauria, Christie’s Head of the 21st Century Evening Sale, remarks, “Jean-Michel Basquiat’s El Gran Espectaculo (The Nile) is the quintessential history painting and one of the most iconic Contemporary works of all time. It is a canonical masterwork, representative of the origins of Basquiat’s now ubiquitous visual language that has been cemented within our cultural consciousness and is demonstrative of his singular ability to chart the Black experience. It is an absolute honor to offer El Gran Espectaculo (The Nile) as the centerpiece of our sale season this Spring in New York.” 

- By Pritha Debroy

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