Skull Painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat Sells for Nearly $111 Million

Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Jean-Michel Basquiat began his career as a humble New York street artist in the late 1970s—but a recent record-breaking sale at Sotheby’s auction house ensured that the painter’s name will be mentioned in the same breath as Pablo Picasso, Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol, and other modernist greats.

As The New York Times reports, a 1982 work by Basquiat—a scrawling, large-scale painting of a skull—fetched nearly $111 million at a contemporary art auction last night, cementing its creator as one of America’s highest-grossing artists. The untitled painting’s new owner is Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese e-commerce billionaire who collects art.

As CNN reports, Maezawa is constructing an art museum in the city of Chiba, near Tokyo. In the past year, he’s shelled out $230 million for works of contemporary art to place on display. One of them was another untitled Basquiat painting, which the entrepreneur purchased from Christie’s in May 2016 for more than $57 million. (That deal marked a previous auction high for Basquiat, which Maezawa has now broken on his own.)

Both Basquiat works will go in Maezawa’s new museum—but before placing his newest purchase in its permanent home, he plans to loan it to institutions and exhibitions around the world. "I hope it brings as much joy to others as it does to me, and that this masterpiece by the 21-year-old Basquiat inspires our future generations,” the collector said in a statement [PDF].

That said, the skull painting’s price—not its new owner—is what’s making headlines. The work was last sold in May 1984 for $19,000, and has been “virtually unseen” since then, according to Sotheby’s. But on May 18, the painting became the most expensive work produced by any American artist, and the sixth most expensive work ever sold at auction. It set other records, too, including highest price fetched for any artwork by an African-American artist.

Basquiat—who died from a drug overdose when he was 27 years old—achieved fame during his short lifetime. But several decades after his death, his vision is more poignant than ever: In 2016, the artist became the highest-grossing American artist at auction, after 80 of his works sold for nearly $172 million. And now, he’s entered a new league of fame.

“Here he is, blazing a trail not only in terms of the market but also in terms of how his work is perceived more widely,” African-American artist Adam Pendleton told The New York Times. “It speaks to the broader elements of American culture. And what a powerful moment to have that happen.”

[h/t The New York Times]

Tax Day for Americans Will Be Pushed Back to July 15

Enterline Design Services LLC
Enterline Design Services LLC

On Friday morning, less than a month before the American tax filing deadline of April 15, treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin announced via Twitter that Tax Day will be pushed back by three months—to July 15, 2020—in order to allow individuals and businesses dealing with the physical, financial, and logistical repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic some extra time to get their financial matters in order.

While the date change applies to all American individuals, businesses, and organizations—and no interest or penalties will accrue during this time—Mnuchin, in a second tweet, did suggest that anyone who has completed their taxes submit them now "to get your money."

No further details were given, though we're sure a more detailed statement will be coming as, at the time of publication, even the IRS's site still noted April 15 as the deadline.

In 1861, President Abraham Lincoln created the first income tax as a way to cover Civil War expenses. Calculating what you owed was a lot easier back then: It was a 3 percent flat tax on all incomes above $800. But it wasn't until 1913, with the passage of the 16th Amendment, that Congress formalized a nationwide income tax. Originally, Tax Day was March 1; a few years later, it was pushed back to March 15.

In 1955, revisions to the tax code moved the date back again to April 15, though there have been some exceptions. In 2016, 2017, and 2018, Americans got a few extra days to file because Tax Day cannot fall on a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday. But why did it move from March 1 in the first place? The IRS claims it needed more time to process returns, but tax experts believe that an increase in refunds for the middle class meant the agency wanted to hold onto its money longer and collect interest.

We're Hiring a Part-Time Editorial Assistant

zakokor/iStock via Getty Images
zakokor/iStock via Getty Images

Mental Floss is hiring a part-time editorial assistant for our New York City office (though part of your hours can be worked remotely). We’re looking for a rabidly curious individual who is interested in contributing to various aspects of

You can write about almost anything, and you will: Why Paraguay loves Rutherford B. Hayes. What people did for fun in the 16th century. Why the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were so obsessed with pizza. Chaucer. Mini-golf. Drones. Why Syrian golden hamsters spend so much time at the liquor store.

In addition to writing, researching, photo sourcing, web production, and pitching story ideas, you’ll have the opportunity to assist our social media editor with conceptualizing and executing ideas for our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram channels and sharing the new content we post daily. You’ll also have the chance to work with our video team to write and produce our slate of YouTube series; pitch in on our new podcast; and be a part of our monthly team brainstorms. This is a fantastic opportunity for someone looking to learn the digital publishing industry from the ground up, to be able to contribute to some fun (and sometimes bizarre) projects, and to earn some bylines on our Webby Award-winning website.

You’ll be working approximately 15-20 hours per week (and can spend some of that time working remotely, though onsite hours will be required). The position starts ASAP and pays $15/hour. Though it’s scheduled to be a two- to three-month position, the opportunity to continue on after that may be possible.

Ideal candidates will have:
- At least one year of writing and/or editing experience (classes, school-based projects, and/or personal blogs or websites count)
- A natural curiosity and the ability to generate tons of story ideas and execute timely stories on tight deadlines
- Strong attention to detail and multitasking skills
- Energetic, positive written voice, and the ability to translate complicated concepts into accessible writing
- Strong research skills
- Ability to work and collaborate with a team

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