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An enormous canvas made as part of the high-profile collaboration between Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat will be one of the highlights of the spring auction season at Sotheby’s in New York. With an estimate in the region of $18m, it is expected to set a new record price under the hammer for a work from the series when it is offered in the auction house’s contemporary art evening sale this May.

The untitled 1984 painting is one of around 160 works co-created by the two artists over a two-year period that would prove to include some of the final years of their lives. Warhol died from cardiac arrhythmia in 1987 at age 58, and Basquiat died of a heroin overdose the following year at age 27.

Although Warhol and Basquiat are each among the most successful post-war American artists and the best-selling at auction, the work from their collaboration was largely panned by critics when it was unveiled at New York’s Tony Shafrazi Gallery in 1985, and not a single painting sold before the show closed. Even since then, works from the series have tended to perform considerably worse at auction than comparable ones by either of the artists individually. The most valuable product of the collaboration to sell at auction to date is Zenith (1985), which fetched nearly $11.4m with fees during Phillips’s contemporary art evening sale in New York in May 2014.

The partnership between Warhol and Basquiat has provoked other types of re-assessments in recent years, as well. The playwright Anthony McCarten investigated their working relationship in The Collaboration, which was staged in London and on Broadway in 2022 and 2023, respectively, and is being adapted into a feature film. Others have accused Warhol of exploiting and manipulating Basquiat, then a rising star in New York’s art world, through the duo’s joint project; the harshest of these critics may be the celebrated American author Ishmael Reed, whose fantastical, satirical play The Slave Who Loved Caviarincludes an aging white vampire artist who drains the talents of a young Black collaborator to extend his own career.

The untitled painting Sotheby’s plans to offer this May last crossed the auction block in 2010, at another Sotheby’s contemporary evening sale in New York, where it made almost $2.7m with fees. The work also traveled as a part of the major exhibition of Warhol and Basquiat’s collaborative output staged at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris in 2023, with a smaller version of the show appearing at the Brant Foundation in New York later the same year.

The 1984 work by Warhol and Basquiat is the second high-value lot known to be on offer in Sotheby’s contemporary evening sale in New York this May. Last week, the auction house announced that it would sell a portrait by Francis Bacon of his lover George Dyer expected to bring as much as $50m.

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