These works really are valuable, because they are the last great works in the history of painting — if we are to understand the history of painting as the era when people paid attention to and cared about what painters were painting.
Here's the NYT 1988 obituary for Basquiat:
Michel Basquiat, a Brooklyn-born artist whose brief career leaped from graffiti scrawled on SoHo foundations to one-man shows in galleries around the world, died Friday at his home in the East Village. He was 27 years old....Who knows what his work would sell for if he hadn't died young, but his "Dustheads" just sold for $48.8 million. Dust to dust.
His paintings sold for $25,000 to $50,000....
Ah! I just had a flashback to the 1970s when — at least in some quarters of NYC — "dust" was slang for money. Urban Dictionary fails to show this meaning. (The favored definition is: "pcp," and that's what the painting title "Dustheads" invites us to assume is the meaning, but maybe the artist hoped we'd see layers of meaning (like layers of paint).) Here's a nice long list of money-related slang and it includes "dust," but it doesn't mean money. It means lack of money:
Dust -- As in "nothing but." Let me borrow 5 bucks. I got dust.
"'Ashes to ashes, dust to dust,' a phrase from the Anglican burial service, used sometimes to denote total finality. It is based on scriptural texts such as 'Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return' (Genesis 3:19), and 'I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee' (Ezekiel 28:18)."