One of my favorite artists recently sold at auction for higher than any other American painter ever has. It is hard for me to describe why I have always found Basquiat compelling, but he has nonetheless.
Economically, I think it is interesting to take note of sales like this one – sales that are exceptionally high. In the art world, I would bet that simple demand/supply analysis explains the cost of art. Basquiat, for example, did not produce much given how esteemed he has become (he started as a simple graffiti artist in the 1980s, tagging his work with the title “Samo;” he died in 1988 when he was 27 years old). Therefore, when a painting of his surfaces like this one did, demand accelerates enormously in spite and because of its limited supply. Hence, it sells for a very high price.
Whatever the case, I am glad to see art still thrive, even if only through the philanthropy of a few very wealthy people. I would encourage you to take a look at his work on your own time. You may even be interested in a film about his life.