Basquiat, a Harvard Rap Album, and in the Passenger Seat of Uber — Monday Briefing

In this latest MAEKAN Briefing, we take a look at some of the recent events that have transpired in creative culture with a bit of context to help you understand their importance. We look at the most recent $110.5 million USD sale of a Basquiat, a Harvard student's rap album as his graduation thesis and the impending release of a book on Uber.

As always, if you have any comments or insights, feel free to share them on our Slack community.

American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat entered the exclusive $100 million-plus USD Club on Thursday, May 18th by way of a Sotheby’s auction. From the streets to the gallery, Basquiat’s raw energy and limited demand have propelled him forward to become the most valuable American artist of all-time. Many are fixated on the cost of the painting, the 1982 “Untitled” piece, which features a vibrant multicolored face against a disorderly background. The piece was purchased by Yusaku Maezawa, the founder of Japanese online fashion retailer ZOZOTOWN. Following the purchase, he announced his goal of putting the piece on display at museums across the world before allowing it to settle down in a museum he is building in his hometown of Chiba.


  • Created in 1982
  • Painted by a 21-year-old Basquiat
  • Made of oil stick and spray paint
  • Sold for $110.5 million USD via Sotheby’s
  • The sixth most expensive painting ever sold by Sotheby’s
  • Purchased by Yusaku Maezawa, the Founder of the Contemporary Art Foundation
  • Set the record for most expensive work by any American artist, most expensive work by an African-American artist, and the first work created since 1980 to sell for over $100 million USD


  • The recent auction price will push people to sell more Basquiats in the near future, arguably paintings of lesser quality
  • Traditionally, few pieces from the 1981 – 1983 era have been auctioned off
  • It means a limited supply of work from Basquiat’s best period
  • Many collectors rarely sell and most museums cannot afford Basquiats
  • The result are few publically available examples on display

“He’s now in the same league as Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso.”

– Jeffrey Deitch, Collector & Co-Founder of the Deitch Projects

Source: The New York Times

2. Harvard’s First-Ever Hip-Hop Thesis

Obasi Shaw, a 2017  Harvard graduate, took a most unconventional route in submitting his graduation thesis. Titled “Liminal Minds,” the 10-track rap album explores commentary through Middle English poetry with a strong dose of racial identity. His effort garnered an A minus, good enough for him to graduate with honors.

While Shaw’s earned understandable acclaim for his artistic talents, he’s slated to start one-year internship with Google for the time being. His thesis can be heard via the Soundcloud embed below.

“Rap is a genre in which I can say everything I want to say. I’ve been writing in different capacities, but I never felt that I found my art form until I started rapping.”

– Obasi Shaw

<p>Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber by <span class="text size-2x-small color-dark-gray" data-reactid="292">Jeffery Salter — Redux Pictures</span><span data-reactid="293"> </span></p>

Travis Kalanick, CEO of Uber by Jeffery Salter — Redux Pictures 


3. Riding Shotgun with Uber

It’s been a difficult past 12 months with ride-sharing leader Uber. The company’s breakneck speeds in iteration and growth have led them to be especially loose on following regulation in various markets.

CEO Travis Kalanick has been the driving force behind Uber’s quest towards global transport domination. Kalanick’s desire to win is so strong, it’s even made him one of the world’s best Wii Tennis players  (yes, the video game). But his persona and actions have increasingly come under scrutiny. In an upcoming book titled Wild Ride: Inside Uber’s Quest for World Domination, Fortune Executive Editor Adam Lashinsky paints a vivid picture behind one of tech’s most influential figures.

In a short excerpt of the book seen on Fortune, there’s no shortage of interesting anecdotes and quirks that help readers understand what makes Kalanick tick, the sustainability of it all, and how warranted is the public’s disdain for Uber’s practices?

See the preview over at Fortune.

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