The process of authenticating the work of Brooklyn-born (and –buried) superstar artist Jean-Michel Basquiat has come under close scrutiny in the several months, following not only a dispute over a painting on a Williamsburg bodega’s door, but also the recent decision by his estate—which his father Gerard manages—to dissolve its authentication committee. But that group, which gets the final say on which pieces are deemed multi-million-dollar works by the star of the 80s Downtown scene, might want to start bringing a black light to its deliberations: while prepping a Basquiat for auction, Sotheby’s recently noticed that the artist had signed a painting in invisible ink.
The artist’s name and the date, 1982, appeared under ultraviolet light in the bottom-right-hand corner of “Orange Sports Figure,” which is expected to sell at the auction house’s London location for somewhere between $4.7 million and $6.3 million.
“Nobody else probably ever knew about this invisible inscription, and the prospect that he might have left other invisible writings on his canvasses that are only visible under ultraviolet light is very exciting,” Sotheby’s Europe head of contemporary art Cheyenne Westphal told the Associated Press.
The signature, which uncharacteristically features Basquiat’s full name as opposed to one of his crowns or his long-time alias SAMO, was apparently made with the same type of marker used to authenticate paper currency. “Orange Sports Figure” was on the auction block today, with no increase to its estimated value in light of the discovery. The auction house also didn’t reveal how it happened upon the black light discovery in the first place.
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