He bought a painting titled "Etappe" by the German artist Neo Rauch, said Art Basel spokeswoman Maike Cruse.
The David Zwirner Gallery in New York had advertised the work as an "enigmatic and dreamlike" representation of a race car being serviced mid-competition. Its list price was euro680,000 _ about $960,000.
The gallery refused to comment.
Rauch is among Europe's top painters, drawing on traditions of Eastern Bloc realism and Western abstraction.
The 40th Art Basel fair opened to the public Wednesday. It features works from over 2,500 artists.
Pitt also attended last year.