Christie’s Basquiat Auction Halted By Lawsuit, “Milk” Radiator’s Authenticity in Question

March 10, 2014 | Marina Galperina

Christie’s latest Jean-Michel Basquiat online auction has been stopped and officially “postponed” after two of the late artist’s sisters filed a $1 million lawsuit claiming that the collection of his ex-roommate/lover Alexis Adler could include fakes.

We first interviewed Adler a year ago, in her now-remodeled former squat of an apartment that she shared with Basquiat in 1979-1980. They shared a special, non-exclusive connection. “Other people might not have been open to waking up and seeing like a mural painted on their wall,” she explained. That mural in question — a wall that read “Olive Oyl” — sold for $569,000 late last week, just under the $600,000 high estimate. Another large art work — a door with the text “Famous Negro Athletes” — was estimated at $800,000 and sold for $773,000. Both pieces were verified by the the Basquiat authentication committee before it disbanded in 2012.

A radiator labeled “Milk” (pictured) was valued at $300,000 but was pulled, along with the rest of the auction. The auction also included dozens of loose piece of notebook paper with sketches and scribbles, and sometimes, just a few lines of text. Each was priced in the thousands of dollars.

“Our goal is to allow time for all parties involved to reach an equivalent level of confidence in the validity of these items, so that the sale may resume at a later date,” Christies Capucine Milliot told ANIMAL, repeating a lawyer-vetted statement. When asked if the auction house considers itself one of the “parties involved” and plans to launch their own investigation into the artifacts’ authenticity — or if Christie’s will just sit it out until Alexis Adler’s and the Basquate Estate’s lawyers duke it out in court — Christie’s remains diplomatic. Yes, they are, of course, one of the “parties involved.” However, they did not provided any information at how such minimal works are authenticated, or if needed. re-authenticated.

Jeanine Basquiat Heriveaux and Lisane Basquiat says that “even an untrained observer could tell that the words on the various works were written by different people.”

When we visited the East Village apartment in 2013, the “Milk” radiator casing was mounted proudly to the wall, as was the door — taken off its hinges and hung up like a canvas in the now-spiffy apartment.

(Video: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork)