The Iconic Basquiat’s ‘El Gran Espectaculo’ For Sale

Christie’s is gearing up to showcase one of the most iconic contemporary works of all time, El Gran Espectaculo (The Nile), as the leading highlight of its Spring Marquee Week of sales.

The auction will take place on Monday, May 15, 2023, at Rockefeller Center in New York City. The painting, estimated to fetch around $45,000,000, is a masterpiece from the oeuvre of Jean-Michel Basquiat and is expected to attract art collectors and enthusiasts from around the world.

The Significance of El Gran Espectaculo (The Nile)

El Gran Espectaculo (The Nile), also known as Untitled (History of the Black People), is a commanding triptych painted by Basquiat in 1983 when he was just 22 years old.

This triptych is one of the most historically and intellectually significant examples of Basquiat’s limited body of work. It employs an intoxicating array of signs and iconography to declare what would become his unending pursuit to use art as a means to address issues of representation of the African diaspora within the larger context of world history.

The painting has been in the same private collection for the past fifteen years and was previously owned by esteemed gallerist, collector, and book publisher Enrico Navarra.

It has been exhibited in numerous critically acclaimed retrospectives of Basquiat’s work, including the first posthumous solo survey at a museum (and first American retrospective) organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1992. The work also stood among the most prominent pieces at the 2005 Brooklyn Museum of Art retrospective.

The Iconic Basquiat's 'El Gran Espectaculo' For Sale
Property from a Distinguished Collection: Partial proceeds intended to benefit Accademia Valentino Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) El Gran Espectaculo (the Nile) Estimate on request; in the region of $45,000,000

The Legacy of Basquiat

Alex Rotter, Christie’s Chairman of 20th and 21st Century Art, believes that Basquiat’s genius is undeniable. His presence and influence break boundaries, spanning fashion, art, and pop culture.

The impact that he continues to have on culture is inescapable and only continues to expand. Basquiat’s ability to chart the Black experience is singular and El Gran Espectaculo (The Nile) is a true masterwork.

Isabella Lauria, Christie’s Head of the 21st Century Evening Sale, echoes the sentiment that Basquiat’s El Gran Espectaculo (The Nile) is the quintessential history painting. It is a canonical masterwork, representative of the origins of Basquiat’s now ubiquitous visual language cemented within our cultural consciousness.


Basquiat’s El Gran Espectaculo (The Nile) is the centrepiece of Christie’s Spring Marquee Week of sales, and its estimated value of $45,000,000 is reflective of the painting’s historical and intellectual significance.

It’s an iconic contemporary work of art that continues to inspire and influence contemporary art and culture worldwide. As a leading auction house, Christie’s is proud to present such a masterpiece to art collectors and enthusiasts.

Images: Christie’s

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