Meet The Japanese E-Commerce Billionaire Who Just Spent $110.5 Million On A Basquiat Painting – Forbes

A Sotheby's official speaks about an untitled painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat during a media preview May 5, 2017 at Sotheby's In New York.

DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

A Sotheby’s official speaks about an untitled painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat during a media preview May 5 at Sotheby’s in New York City.

Yusaku Maezawa, a 41-year-old billionaire and former rock musician from Japan, paid $110.5 million for Jean-Michel Basquiat’s 1982 painting “Untitled,” at the Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction on May 18 in New York City. The purchase shattered his own record for most paid for a Basquiat painting, which he’d previously set in May 2016 when he paid $57 million for another untitled Basquiat.

According to Sotheby’s, the $110.5 million sale price was the highest paid at auction for both any artwork created after 1980 and for any piece created by an American artist. For some perspective, five Basquiat works were up for auction last night and the four others sold for less than a combined $20 million. Meanwhile the 48 works in the auction that sold went for $319.2 million in total, meaning that Maezawa’s purchase accounted for more than one third of the night’s sum.

Maezawa, whose $3.6 billion fortune stems from Japan’s largest online fashion mall, Zozotown,  announced on his personal Instagram account Thursday evening that he was the buyer of the 6-foot-tall acrylic, spray paint and oilstick painting. (As of publication, the post had received more than 11,000 ‘likes’ on the social media platform.)

“I am happy to announce that I just won this masterpiece,” he wrote in his Instagram post. “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.”

And many people may have the opportunity to see it again in the future–Maezawa plans to open an art museum in Chiba, Japan, a city east of Tokyo, to showcase his personal collection. In an email interview in April Maezawa told FORBES that he began collecting art about 10 years ago, and that in addition to the Basquiat, he also owns works by Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Alexander Calder, and Jeff Koons, among others. He bought both Picasso’s Buste de Femme for $22.3 million in November 2016.

p style=”text-align: start;”>Maezawa may have made one of the biggest purchases in recent auction history, but he isn’t the only billionaire who’s spent big bucks on an art collection. Other recent buys include hedge fund titan Ken Griffin’s reported purchase of both Willem de Kooning’s “Interchange” for $300 million and Jackson Pollock’s “Number 17A” for $200 million in February 2016

According to the FORBES Real-Time Billionaire Rankings Maezawa is the 11th richest person in Japan, though he didn’t really intend to ever become a businessman at all. A fan of punk rock growing up in Japan, after Maezawa graduated high school he moved to California to play drums. His rockstar ambitions didn’t work out, but while he was in the U.S. he came up with the idea of bringing music merchandising–selling band T-shirts, books, programs and CDs outside concert venues and music festivals–back home to Japan. Once had moved back in the mid-1990’s, he decided to create a catalog to sell band T-shirts and CDs via mail order. From crafting the catalog’s inventory to shipping orders, he ran everything from his kitchen table.

“All of that was okay because I didn’t really think I was in the retail trade,” he told FORBES in 2011. “I was in the music business, and I was happy with it.”

Soon after, he taught himself how to code, set up a website, hired a few employees and inspired by his colleagues’ fashion sense, decided to pivot the business to focus more on apparel. Out of that grew Zozotown, an e-commerce site that took small Japanese fashion brands, once limited by shelf-space in brick-and-mortar department stores, and broadened their customer base vastly, selling their wares to anyone on the web.

Today, as a director and president of Zozotown’s parent firm, , Maezawa now owns 39% of the company, which is traded on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and has a market cap of $8.2 billion.

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