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Jean-Michel Basquiat

Williamsburg street art is Phil Frost, not Basquiat

As the appreciation of street art rises (as do its prices), attribution becomes critical

A painting of a horned figure that once decorated a steel shop door in Williamsburg, New York is not by Jean-Michel Basquiat, as stated in September’s New York Magazine, but is understood to be the work of painter Phil Frost. This is supported by several comments at the end of the article, which suggested that the unsigned painting was the last Basquiat created before he died in 1988. Street artist Shepard Fairey wrote: “I spent a lot of time with Phil Frost doing street art in the mid- to late-1990s. This is an unfinished Frost piece. The colours and character shape are common in his work of that period, and the text in the middle left is unmistakable as Frost.”

The case underlines the increasing potential value of street art (a 1986 Basquiat painting on wood fetched just over $4m at Phillips de Pury, New York in May this year), as well as the problems associated with authenticating his work, particularly murals. “It is very difficult to authenticate Basquiat’s murals as they are considered ephemera and not fine art,” says Amanda Stoffel, a cataloguer at Phillips de Pury. She says a Basquiat work can increase ten times in value if authenticated. At its low estimate an unauthenticated work might fetch $300,000.

The work was submitted to Basquiat’s estate in 2009, but its authenticity was rejected, according to New York Magazine.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'Not a Basquiat, but a Phil Frost'