Jean-Michel Basquiat “is now in the same league as Francis Bacon and Pablo Picasso” as a painting by the late artist has sold for $110.5m (£85.4m) in New York with Sotheby's.

Joining the rarefied $100 million-plus club in a salesroom punctuated by periodic gasps from the crowd, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s powerful 1982 painting of a skull became the sixth most expensive work ever sold at auction. Only 10 other works have broken the $100 million mark.

The sale of the painting, “Untitled,” made for a thrilling moment at Sotheby’s postwar and contemporary auction as at least four bidders on the phones and in the room sailed past the $60 million level at which the work — forged from oil stick and spray paint — had been guaranteed to sell by a third party.

Soon after the sustained applause had subsided, the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa revealed himself to be the buyer through a post on his Instagram account. “I am happy to announce that I just won this masterpiece,” he said in the post. “When I first encountered this painting, I was struck with so much excitement and gratitude for my love of art. I want to share that experience with as many people as possible.”

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