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Famed Artwork By 1980s NYC Legend Jean-Michel Basquiat Goes Up For Auction

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- A collection of artwork by one of New York City's most famed graffiti artists was about to be auctioned off Monday.

As CBS 2's Scott Rapoport reported, a close friend of Jean-Michel Basquiat's has decided to part with some very valuable pieces of art.

Basquiat's creations were described as a famous fusion of multicultural symbols, distinctive graphic style and biting social commentary.

Basquiat died back in 1988 at the age of 27 from a drug overdose. But his legendary work lived on, and now will be available for sale.

"He was a very deep, warm person," said Alexis Adler, Basquat's former lover. "He was very thoughtful, and everything was art."

Basquiat and Adler lived together for a year in a small East Village apartment back in 1979 – before Basquiat became a star.

She is now selling more than 40 works Basquiat left behind, including paintings, fashion, and scribblings.

In the art world, it is big news.

Basquiat's famed painting "Dustheads" sold for $48.8 million at a Christie's auction last year.

"None of us were very rich back then," Adler said, "but we were rich in spirit and art, I'd say."

Basquiat started painting as a teenager, primarily as a graffiti artist. He became world-famous in his 20s, and dated Madonna for a short time in the early 1980s before she was famous.

Basquiat's works collectively have reportedly sold for more than $150 million. But the works up for auction are the ones a young Basquiat gave to Adler, before his tremendous success.

"So I just kept everything," Adler said. "I knew."

And now, Adler is parting with her last memories of Basquiat's gift -- his art.

"I am releasing it to the world," she said. "It is no longer appropriate for me to be holding on to this."

It is believed the art in this collection could fetch as much is $3 million at auction.

The online Christie's auction for the Basquiat works began on Monday, and will continue through March 17. A live auction will be held Thursday.

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