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Japanese billionaire mystery buyer of Basquiat painting

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TOKYO: A Japanese billionaire is the mystery art collector behind the $57.3 million purchase of a huge self-portrait by Jean-Michel Basquiat at auction earlier this week, his art foundation said.

“Jean-Michel Basquiat is coming to Japan,” businessman Yusaku Maezaw wrote on his Instagram account, posing in front of the painting.

Maezawa, who made his fortune in the clothing trade, bought seven works of art in two days for a total of $97.8 million.

Maezawa on Tuesday purchased Basquiat’s massive seven by 16 foot (two-and-a-half by five meter) untitled self-portrait from 1982, painted in Italy.

The young Haitian-American artist, who pictured himself in the work with a demonic image among eye-popping colors, died in 1988 of a drug overdose at age 27.

In addition to the Basquiat, Maezawa acquired four other pieces of contemporary art at Christie’s late Tuesday, according to a statement by his Tokyo-based Contemporary Art Foundation. They were sold for a total of $81.3 million.

On Wednesday, he purchased a work by Romanian painter Adrian Ghenie for $2.59 million, more than 10 times its low-end estimate, and another by American Christopher Wool for $13.91 million, at Sotheby’s, the auction house said.

His foundation said Maezawa is planning to open a private museum in several years in Chiba, Japan where he grew up, and has been collecting works of art for the last 10 years to fill it.

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