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]

Looking to Downsize? You Can Buy a 5-Room DIY Cabin on Amazon for Less Than $33,000

Five rooms of one's own.
Five rooms of one's own.
Allwood/Amazon

If you’ve already mastered DIY houses for birds and dogs, maybe it’s time you built one for yourself.

As Simplemost reports, there are a number of house kits that you can order on Amazon, and the Allwood Avalon Cabin Kit is one of the quaintest—and, at $32,990, most affordable—options. The 540-square-foot structure has enough space for a kitchen, a bathroom, a bedroom, and a sitting room—and there’s an additional 218-square-foot loft with the potential to be the coziest reading nook of all time.

You can opt for three larger rooms if you're willing to skip the kitchen and bathroom.Allwood/Amazon

The construction process might not be a great idea for someone who’s never picked up a hammer, but you don’t need an architectural degree to tackle it. Step-by-step instructions and all materials are included, so it’s a little like a high-level IKEA project. According to the Amazon listing, it takes two adults about a week to complete. Since the Nordic wood walls are reinforced with steel rods, the house can withstand winds up to 120 mph, and you can pay an extra $1000 to upgrade from double-glass windows and doors to triple-glass for added fortification.

Sadly, the cool ceiling lamp is not included.Allwood/Amazon

Though everything you need for the shell of the house comes in the kit, you will need to purchase whatever goes inside it: toilet, shower, sink, stove, insulation, and all other furnishings. You can also customize the blueprint to fit your own plans for the space; maybe, for example, you’re going to use the house as a small event venue, and you’d rather have two or three large, airy rooms and no kitchen or bedroom.

Intrigued? Find out more here.

[h/t Simplemost]

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The Federal Government Is Organizing a Task Force to Examine UFO Sightings—Because Aliens

No word yet on whether Amy Adams will be a member of the task force.
No word yet on whether Amy Adams will be a member of the task force.
maxime raynal, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Earlier this year, the Pentagon released three videos that show unidentified flying objects—yes, UFOs—spotted by military aircraft near U.S. coastlines. Though they’re officially calling them “Unmanned Aerial Systems” (UAS), which essentially translates to drones, the message is clear: nobody knows what they are or where they came from.

This week, two unnamed officials in the U.S. Department of Defense told CNN that the Pentagon is organizing a task force to get to the bottom of the mystery (and other similar sightings). All we know so far is that Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist will be one of its leaders, and the Pentagon is supposed to officially reveal the new organization sometime in the next few days.

Hazard reports for the three sightings disclosed that two of the UAS were white, and they were all visually similar to drones. One of the reasons it’s so important to investigate them is that the random appearance of an unpredictable aircraft poses a threat to U.S. military personnel.

“I feel it may only be a matter of time before one of our F/A-18 aircraft has a mid-air collision with an unidentified UAS,” one official explained in the report.

Then, of course, there’s the issue of national security; naturally, the Department of Defense wants to know if other countries are developing new surveillance technology or even weaponry that’s hovering over U.S. soil.

And, finally, everybody wants to know if aliens have finally landed on Earth. This is far from the government’s first endeavor to find out. In 2007, the Pentagon launched its most recent classified program (that we know of) to study UFO activity, which ran until 2012. The details of their investigation are still under wraps, but program head Luis Elizondo told CNN in 2017 that they “found a lot.”

“My personal belief is that there is very compelling evidence that we may not be alone,” he said.

While you’re waiting for the Pentagon to debut its shiny new task force, amuse yourself with 12 wild UFO stories from history.

[h/t CNN]