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A&E >  Art

Billionaire philanthropist Ken Griffin buys Basquiat painting for more than $100 million

UPDATED: Fri., June 5, 2020

By Steve Johnson Chicago Tribune

Citadel founder and Chicago philanthropist Ken Griffin intends to keep in the public view the Jean-Michel Basquiat painting he recently purchased for more than $100 million, a spokesman said Friday.

The sale to Griffin and the price of Basquiat’s large-scale 1982 canvas “Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump” were reported by Bloomberg News, following a report in the art industry newsletter The Baer Faxt.

“The vast majority of Ken’s art collection is on display at museums for the public to enjoy,” Citadel spokesman Zia Ahmed said when reached for comment. “He intends to share this piece as well.”

Basquiat was the New York artist who brought street influences into the gallery and spotlighted “subjugation, racism, greed and the underbelly of America,” as a close associate has written. His work has appreciated in price to record-setting levels since his heroin overdose death in 1988 at age 27.

A black skull painting of his called “Untitled” sold at auction in 2017 to Japanese collector Yusaku Maezawa for $110.5 million, a record for any work by an American or African American artist. A second Basquiat breaking the $100 million barrier suggests that price was not a fluke.

In a sale a source said was completed several months ago, Griffin bought the “Johnnypump” painting from Peter Brant, a billionaire and leading Basquiat collector whose namesake foundation maintains public art venues in New York City and Greenwich, Connecticut.

Executives at the Brant Foundation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The painting was on display in “Jean-Michel Basquiat,” the inaugural show at the Brant Foundation’s New York space in the spring of 2019. Although exhibition photos show it with a place of prominence on a gallery wall, it was not among the works highlighted in the exhibition news release.

The website The Artwolf calls “Boy and Dog in a Johnnypump,” a vibrant painting of roughly 8 by 14 feet, “a monumental work dating from 1982, when Basquiat reached the zenith of his talent. As is usual in Basquiat, the composition is simple, but the whole painting is a neo-expressionist ‘tour-de-force’ in which the usually pleasant scene of a boy playing with his dog is painted with the rabid energy of a primitive work of Art.”

Griffin is a leading donor to cultural institutions in Chicago and New York, especially. His splashiest gift here came last October, when the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago said it will incorporate Griffin’s name into its own after he donated $125 million.

“Johnnypump” will join works in Griffin’s collection by female and black artists including Virgil Abloh, Lee Krasner, Isa Genzken, Mark Bradford and Njideka Akunyili Crosby.

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