America's Most Prominent American Artist Is Latinx
Basquiat is black. Basquiat is American. Basuiat is Latinx. Born in the United States to a Hatian father and a mother of Puerto Rican descent, Basquiat is somewhere in between American and Latin, what many would call Chicano, Latino, or Latinx.
WHAT IS LATINX?
As I’m typing this Microsoft word is autocorrecting Latinx. Although the term has not yet been widely embraced, it has been gaining popularity in recent years and is recognized by the Oxford dictionary.
Before delving into the art market, let’s first examine the history of the term. According to many sources, the term Latinx was first used by online journalists, bloggers, and activists at the beginning of the 21st century, around 2004, and stems from the term Chicanx, which originated as an area of academic study in the 1960s.
The term, Latinx was largely popularized by the LBTQ community because of its inclusivity of both genders, and is embraced by many because it steers away from the term ”latino” which was created by Americans from the United States as opposed to people from Latin America (or their ancestors).
Latinx art is becoming more and more recognized as a classification distinct from both American and Latin American art, and defines work created by artists who may be second or third generation Americans, but are descendants of Latin American people. It may also refer to artists born in Latin America, but who grew up or spent a majority of their time in the United States.
The Latinx art movement begins with the Chicanx movement in the 1960s and 70s. The movement was strong in cities like New York and Los Angeles, and was pioneered by artists such as Olga Albizu, Robert Chavez, and Raphael Montanez Ortiz.
LATINX AND THE LATIN AMERICAN ART MARKET
Before last month, there was no latinx artist whose work came anywhere close to acquiring the same price as any major European, American, or Latin American artist. But in May of 2017, an untitled oil on canvas painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat set a world record price for any piece of art sold at auction by an American artist, fetching $110.5 million.
Beyond breaking international records, and putting Latinx art on the map, what is noticeable about the sale is that the work was not purchased by an American, Latinx or Latin American collector. The piece was acquired by Japanese collector and fashion entrepreneur, Yusaku Maezawa. The fact that there is such international demand for a Latin or Latinx artist is wonderful for both the Latin American and emerging Latinx art markets.
2016 marked the year in which Latin American art set two record prices. First, Frida Kahlo’s "Dos desnudos en el bosque” hammered at $8 million at Sotheby’s auction house, shortly before Diego Rivera’s "Baile en Tehuantepec” sold privately for $15.7 million.
Although there is currently no well defined classification for Latinx art, and Basquiat is still largely considered an American (as opposed to to Latino, Chicano or Latinx artist), the record prices set in the past 2 years by Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Jean-Michel Basquiat will undoubtedly have a tremendously powerful effect on the Latin art market.