New York – Jean-Michel Basquiat occupies star billing on the auction block in New York this season, catapulting the artist into the rostrum of 20th century greats nearly three decades after his death.

Riding high on last year’s $57 million auction record set when a Japanese billionaire snapped up a self-portrait, at least 14 works by the US wonderkid of Haitian and Puerto Rican descent are on sale at Christie’s and Sotheby’s next week.

“He was a street artist so it took a bit of time for him to be assimilated,” explains Loic Gouzer, chairman of post-war and contemporary art at Christie’s. “Now every museum in the world is begging to get Basquiat.”

Christie’s and Sotheby’s — the esteemed houses founded in 18th century London — are chasing combined sales of at least $1.1 billion when they auction hundreds of contemporary, modern and impressionist works of art from May 15-19 in New York.

The top estimate for the week is a 1982 Basquiat, “Untitled” — a skull-like head on a giant canvas in oil-stick, acrylic and spray paint, for which Sotheby’s hopes to smash a new record at more than $60 million.

© AFP Don Emmert A Sotheby's official speaks about an untitled painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat during a media preview at Sotheby's In New York

© AFP Don Emmert – A Sotheby’s official speaks about an untitled painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat during a media preview at Sotheby’s In New York