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Fractional IPO: Answering 8 Questions on Jean-Michel Basquiat Prints

Fractional IPO: Answering 8 Questions on Jean-Michel Basquiat Prints
December 16, 2022
Keenan Flack

This Friday, December 16 at 12 PM EST, Rally will hold an IPO of 'Superhero Portfolio', a set of four prints produced by the Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. The financials:

• Market Cap: $270,000
• Price per Share: $10.00
• Number of Shares: 27,000

Superhero Portfolio, 2022
JMB works: 1982-1987
Photo: New Art Editions


Did Basquiat have editioned prints produced himself? Who commissions the production and sale of Basquiat prints?

Back of the Neck, 1983
Photo: Sotheby's

Yes, Jean-Michel Basquiat produced editioned prints himself during his lifetime. These editions are usually of a smaller size, anywhere from 18 to 45 in a set. They also fetch higher prices: 'Back of the Neck' (1983) set an auction record of $1.1 million in 2021. Those released since his death by the estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat are still investable objects, but the majority of these prints have auction records in the high five-figures.

How many Basquiat editioned prints have been released by his estate, and how often does it happen?

Since his tragic death in 1988, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s estate has taken ownership of his work. The estate was first run by his father, Gerard Basquiat, until he passed away in 2013, and now by his sisters, Lisane Basquiat and Jeanine Heriveaux. His estate began producing these prints in 2001–with the most recent release being 'Superhero Portfolio', now being offered fractionally on Rally. The estate has commissioned nine authorized print sets depicting works from the late artist, usually in editions of 60 or 85; each with a small number of artist and hors commerce proofs. Artist proofs are a small subset kept by the artist and hors commerce proofs are prints that are not sold initially, but given to friends of the artist (or in this case friends of the estate).

How much do Basquiat prints sell for at release?

These Basquiat Foundation prints are sold in partnership with a gallery, most recently Pace Prints, at prices ranging from $35,000 to $200,000. 

Hollywood Africans in Front of The Chinese Theater, 2015
JMB work: 1983
Photo: Artsy

$35,000, at the very low end, was the price offered for both '50 Cent Piece' and 'Boxer Rebellion'. Two printed editions sized about 30 x 40 inches, in editions of 60, released in 2018 and 19 respectively. 'Hollywood Africans In Front Of The Chinese Theater' also sold for $40,000, a year before 'Flexible' in 2015, but the work is a vast piece, 7 feet wide, coming in a set of 60.

The estate has also released two portfolios at $50,000 each, both depicting some less talked about works in the artist's career. These are small sets of four prints each, just 22 x 30 inches a piece. This most recent offering from the estate, 'Superhero Portfolio', was offered at $200,000 for four 40 x 40 inch prints from a set of 85.

How have Basquiat prints performed in the secondary market and at auction? Have the values increased?

Original prints the artist created himself are obviously more desirable; 'Back of the Neck' sold for £801,500 at Sotheby’s in 2021. That is well outside of the norm for prints produced by his estate after he died.

Those produced by the estate have regularly found themselves at auction over the last few years, with lots consisting of individual prints, sets of 4, and sets of 4 broken up. Some have experienced impressive returns! The most impressive is 'Flexible'; prints have achieved six-figure prices multiple times. Versus an initial sale price of $40,000, such a result imputes an annual rate of return of 26.27%.  

A portfolio of prints including 'Wolf Sausage', 'King Brand', 'Dog Leg Study', and 'Undiscovered Genius' has experienced similar yearly appreciation of +27.23%. After being sold initially for $50,000 in 2019 it was resold in 2020 for $71,576 at Christie's. Not a bad flip!

50 Cent Piece, 2019
JMB work: 1982
Photo: Guy Hepner

The worst performing set we could find is that of '50 Cent Piece'. Although a copy was sold  for $52,500 in September, other results in 2022 have been dismal. Two sales at Seoul auction house, K Auction, found prices of $36,478 in May and $30,633 in October. The work was produced in 2019 and sold originally for $35,000, so the October result represents a total return of -12.48% over three years. But wait, it gets worse! Those two sales were of artist proofs, a set of 20. So it is no wonder that one month after those two sales, in November, edition number 21/60 was passed on at a low estimate of $50,000 at Bonhams in New York. The majority of auction records for estate prints are proofs, either hors commerce or artist. These proofs usually come in sets of 10 to 20 and with this rarity comes a premium to the main set. The art world is a very exclusive club, so it should come as no surprise to savvy collectors that the best performers are offered to card-carrying members of the art establishment; i.e. not available to the average Joe.

As far as more modest returns go--'Hollywood Africans In Front of The Chinese Theater' found itself experiencing a healthy +104% gain in just seven years, implying a 10.78% annual rate of return. A stable and respectable return for a non-unique work of art. edition number 60/60 sold for $81,900 at Phillips in 2020; the work was produced in 2015 and sold for $40,000. That's one of the few auction records that is one of the core editioned sets, as opposed to a proof, showing that there is a possibility of positive returns even to those outside art market circles. The consignor had to hold onto it for the better part of a decade, but 10% a year is nothing to scoff at.

Since these works are just one part of a set of 50, 60, or 85 you can expect to see them on the auction block relatively often. A few have gone bought-in since the recent market tumult, but it seems that at worst they retain their value over time. Although we should note that for some of these sets we are limited to only a few years of pricing data.

What are the top sales of Basquiat editioned prints?

Flexible, 2016
JMB work: 1984
Photo: Artsy

Two of the highest foundation print sales are of 'Flexible', mentioned above. They were both sold at Sotheby’s in Hong Kong for HK$1.01 million ($128,411) and HK$756,000 ($97,362) respectively. It should be noted, however, that both of these auction records were of a set of 15 hors commerce proofs. A far more scarce collection than one of the 85 in the edition. These records may be represent a premium compared to the standard set; HC prints are usually more sought after due to this rare and unique status.

Where can one buy Basquiat prints?

If the artist’s estate continues at the going rate we can expect to see editioned prints being released once every 18 months or so. Prior to 'Superhero Portfolio', the last one, 'Phooey', was released in 2021. The prior production was sold in 2019, with 8 being sold prior to that since 2015. Although, two of those sets were portfolios, comprising four works each. 

You can also buy them on the secondary market. Auction houses offer Basquiat prints regularly–if you are looking to buy, the cheapest ones usually go for between $30-40,000. At the high end they can touch the six-figures, but for the most part find themselves in the $70-$80,000 range.

How can I invest in Basquiat prints?

Outside of buying and holding the prints yourself, there is now an opportunity to invest in a Basquiat printed edition fractionally. Rally is offering the estate’s newest production, 'Superhero Portfolio', at a price of $270,000 ($10.00/share). 

This set was released in June of 2022 by the estate in association with Pace Prints. Rally is offering edition number ‘7/85’,  the initial price of which was $200,000. Valued individually, each piece in the set would have an average price of $50,000 each.

What is the story behind Basquiat's 'Superhero Portfolio'?

Superhero Portfolio is made up of 4 works: 'Riddle me This', 'A Panel of Experts', 'Piano Lesson', and 'Flash in Naples'. Each’s image represents an original canvas from the painter’s career.

Riddle me This, 2022
JMB work: 1987
Photo: Guy Hepner

'Riddle me This, 1987'–created by the artist just a year before his death. The work embodies the almost schizophrenic style of the artist’s later years. Two figures Rally users will be familiar with, The Riddler and The Joker, are placed front and center. Basquiat regularly used icons in and around pop culture to play against the rest of the unhinged, almost otherworldly canvas.

A Panel of Experts, 2022
JMB work: 1982
Photo: Guy Hepener

'A Panel of Experts, 1982'–another explosive neo-expressionist canvas covered in classic Basquiat iconography. Copyrights and crowns galore, everywhere you look there is an arrow or a symbol to be decoded. 

Piano Lesson (for Chiara), 2022
JMB work: 1983
Photo: Artsy

'Piano Lesson (for Chiara), 1983'–depicts long time comic book names Batman and Robin standing opposite each other. The work explores these two looming childhood figures against a backdrop of the artist’s all-over-the-place pictography. 

Flash in Naples, 2022
JMB work: 1983
Photo: Artsy

'Flash in Naples, 1983'–another powerful painting from the artist depicting yet another DC comics character, this time, The Flash; or ‘IL FLASH’ if you go by the painting. Like many of the artist’s work this object exhibits significant energy and movement. You can see the left Flash running while the grid behind him has been stretched, to illustrate his speed. 

Individually these works represent some of the most interesting canvases created by the artist. They also show his willingness to include pop culture figures in order to connect with his audience. The users on Rally may be intrigued to see the coalescence of high art and comic book characters. After all, plenty of them already fractionally own copies of books featuring those same characters.

Rally is offering the work at $270,000. As mentioned earlier, the artist's estate released the work just 6 months ago in June for $200,000--which would imply a 35% appreciation over that time. There are no public sales of this print set yet, but it would be surprising if it were to achieve $270,000 or more at auction. However, owning an estate-backed piece from one of the 20th century's most lauded artists has potential for upside over the long term.

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