Jean-Michel Basquiat
A woman looks at a work by late Haitian-American Jean-Michel Basquiat REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

Gasps echoed around the room at Sotheby's in Manhattan on Thursday (18 May) after the bidding war over a painting of Brooklyn born graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat ended, with the piece being sold for a record $110.5m (£85.4m).

The 1982 untitled work, which depicts a face in the form of a skull, was purchased via phone bidding by Japanese collector and entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa. Done in oil-stick, acrylic and spray paint, the brightly coloured work, with its sale, was a sales record for Basquiat and for an American artist at auction. It was previously sold at Christie's for $19,000 in May 1984.

"When I first encountered this painting, I was struck with so much excitement and gratitude for my love of art. I want to share that experience with as many people as possible," Maezawa said according to Financial Times.

Basquiat's works were known for their focus on African-American issues, wealth versus poverty, integration versus segregation, and inner versus outer experience. Homeless and unemployed, he started out spray painting graffiti on buildings in Lower Manhattan before moving on to canvases. He died in 1988 from a heroin overdose, at the age of 27.

Thursday's sale draws Basquiat's painting into the same league as those of Pablo Picasso and Francis Bacon whose works sold for over $100m at auction.

"It really shows the strength of the market as well as a very determined group of bidders," Oliver Barker, senior director and chairman of Sotheby's Europe, said. "It pushes Basquiat on to a whole new platform. I think it'll be some time before we see this record broken."