La Hara (1981) by Jean-Michel Basquiat is set to be the highlight of Christie’s New York’s Postwar and Contemporary Art auction on 17 May. Reportedly owned by collector Steve Cohen, the painting is now estimated at $22-28 million, a significant jump from the $341,000 it last sold for in 1989 at Sotheby’s New York.
Details of the painting’s provenance since its first and last auction appearance are still incomplete, but to date 2,459 Basquiat works have been sold at auction, acquired by a wide range of international collectors and institutions. Much desired, recently Basquiat’s works have recently sold for upwards of $20 million, with Japanese collector Yusaku Maezawa acquiring Untitled (1982) in May 2016 for $57.2 million, setting the artist’s auction record.
La Hara is a predominantly red and grey hued acrylic and oil painting on wood panel that reflects Basquiat’s appropriation of graffiti, prose and brut painting techniques. Incorporating vivid colour, various scribbles, diagrams and repeated symbols throughout his body of work, La Hara’s central figure composed of a skeletal figure reflects the New York-based Haitian-Puerto Rican-artist’s focus on mask and skull imagery. The title is a play on Puerto Rican slang for police (jara) as well as the common surname "O'Hara", which was particularly prevalent in the New York law enforcement system in the 1940s and 50s. Drawing inspiration from life, anatomy, pop culture and cultural history, Basquiat’s Neo-Expressionist style received critical acclaim, resulting in a close artistic mentorship under Andy Warhol, until the former’s untimely death in 1988.
La Hara will be on display at Christie’s Los Angeles from 20 April. For more information visit christies.com