“He’s really global—Hong Kong, Australia, of course you have South America, Japan, other parts of Asia, Indonesia, many private collections in Europe, even smaller holdings in Africa,” Buchhart said.
While many collectors are willing to loan work for large portions of the year—Maezawa’s masterpiece was at the Brooklyn Museum
and the Seattle Art Museum
before it went to Paris, meaning it’s been traveling for most of the roughly 20 months he’s owned it—some have started to worry about shipping increasingly valuable canvases.
“It was difficult,” Buchhart said. “People are much less generous in lending, because now the value is so high. People started having more concerns than they did in the past.”
Still, after more than a decade of putting together ambitious Basquiat shows, Buchhart has become good at knowing who to turn to when there’s a specific piece that scratches a curatorial itch or fills a narrative gap. He said he was able to offer primo real estate to collectors who were reluctant to share their works, enticing them with the promise that certain overlooked parts of the artist’s practice would get their star turn in this exhibition’s rejiggered format.
But some resistant collectors took more persuading. To entice would-be lenders into handing over their prized possessions for a few months, Arnault himself sent handwritten letters offering them the pick of the litter from his own personal collection to fill the white space on their walls for the duration of the show.
The surging Basquiat market has also created the problem of putting up the daunting insurance money needed to house so many blue-chip works. Buchhart claimed he didn’t know the total estimate for what the works in the show would hypothetically cost, and thus didn’t know the indemnity that had been assigned to the exhibition so that it could be staged. Dealers familiar with the Basquiat market said they had not looked at all 120 works closely enough to go on the record with a ballpark estimate.
But there’s no doubt that 120 of the greatest Basquiats in existence amount to a whole lot of money. Since 2007, nearly 40 of his paintings, drawings, and canvases on mounted wood have sold for more than $10 million. And accordingly, the two large-scale head paintings in the show not owned by Maezawa would have to be considered $100 million pictures; the 25 or so large-scale paintings are at least equal to those that have recently sold in the range of $30 million. No large-scale, four- or five-paneled works like the ones in the Fondation’s collection have come to auction, but they could conceivably break $50 million given their sheer size. In addition to these knockouts, there are dozens of smaller paintings and drawings that would collectively bring in a hefty sum. All told, it seems reasonable to estimate that the total value of the works in the exhibition could approach $2 billion.