Few artists better embody the boom-bust cycle of the New York art world than Jean-Michel Basquiat, the enfant terrible of the eighties downtown scene. At Art Basel Miami, the boom is definitely back: Seven different galleries are hawking Basquiat's paintings — including one $7.85 million piece offered by Chelsea's Van de Weghe gallery which a rival dealer recalled unloading for $600,000 back in the mid-nineties.
Even copies of Basquiat's work are flying off the walls. Inside the New Art Dealers Alliance (NADA) benefit preview for the New Museum, collectors made a beeline for Soho's Renwick Gallery booth and Los Angeles artist Chris Lipomi's '84 Olympics series — small replicas of every painting Basquiat executed in 1984. Were they Richard Prince–like "appropriations"? Or simply a shameless attempt to cash in on the mania? Whatever you call them, collectors want one. Barely an hour into the NADA preview, all 70 of Lipomi's baby Basquiats had sold, grossing over $130,000. Later that evening, Renwick Gallery manager Christine Messineo still looked dazed. "People got a bit crazy," she chuckled. "I didn't even have a chance to show them the other artists we represent." She's also preparing for round two. Lipomi is working on another 60 mini-Basquiats to finish his series. Like the others, they're about a third the size of the genuine eighties article, so no one's going to be leveling the charge of counterfeiter. Yet. One couple, informed that Lipomi's Basquiats were sold out, could be heard whispering to each other: "Do you think we could convince him to paint us a full-size one?" —Brett Sokol