Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Now’s the Time” Painting Set to Break Records

A true masterpiece and ode to jazz music, Jean-Michel Basquiat‘s “Now’s the Time” will make its debut at Sotheby’s Contemporary Evening Auction this May.

The monumental artwork, measuring over 7 feet in diameter, is expected to sell for more than $30 million. Basquiat’s work has become one of the most recognizable and respected visual idioms of the 20th century, incorporating elements of street art, figuration, and abstraction.

The painting is a recreation of Charlie Parker’s 1945 composition of the same name and immortalizes the legendary jazz saxophonist, who also embodied the spirit of freedom and improvisation that was central to Basquiat’s artistic practice. Basquiat’s love of classical music and jazz, which was deeply influenced by his father, became a major component of nearly every aspect of his life.

Jean-Michel Basquiat's "Now's the Time" Painting Set to Break Records
The present work illustrated on the cover of the Exhibition Catalogue for Seeing Loud: Basquiat and Music at Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, September 2022-February 2023

He was exposed to a variety of emergent music styles from the avant-garde of No Wave to the burgeoning Hip Hop scene, which inspired him to produce the highly influential Hip Hop record “Beat Bop” in 1983. Basquiat’s legacy continues to inspire artists outside the bounds of painting with his genre-defying style.

Now’s the Time” painting exemplifies the greater recognition and admiration of Black artists, past and present, that was central to Basquiat’s own artistic practice. It is a testament to his artistic skill and reverence for jazz music, and the legacy of the painting is still present today.

Generations of hip hop artists, from JAY-Z to Nas, routinely namecheck Basquiat as an aspirational symbol, given the artist’s vaunted place within the cultural pantheon.

The painting’s title and its emphatic exclamation signify a pivotal moment in Basquiat’s career when his star shined brightest, and he was at the absolute apex of his international success as an artist.

Basquiat’s masterpiece showcases a unique blend of simplicity and maturity, which differentiates it from his previous street art-based paintings. It replicates a vinyl record pressing with only a few inscriptions scrawled upon the black matte surface.

Jean-Michel Basquiat's "Now's the Time" Painting Set to Break Records

In conclusion, the “Now’s the Time” painting is a masterpiece that reflects Jean-Michel Basquiat’s passion for music and his place in the pantheon of Black artists.

The painting has remained in the renowned collection of Peter Brant for nearly 40 years and will now make its debut at Sotheby’s auction, where it is expected to fetch over $30 million.

The work exemplifies Basquiat’s love of jazz music and the way it fundamentally impacted his practice, while also showcasing his unique blend of artistic practices. The painting’s legacy continues to inspire artists today, outside the bounds of painting, with its genre-defying style.

Images: Sotheby’s