Keith Haring, even though widely recognized as one of the most important artists from the Pop Art Movement, has never been too preoccupied by the mercantile aspect of the art world.

 

WORK IN PROGRESS

 

1. Works on Canvas


KEITH HARING
Red-Yellow-Blue #9,
1987
Oil and acrylic on canvas
36×36 inches (91.4 x 91.4 cm)
Sotheby’s New-York: 11 March 2022
USD 378,000

“The public has a right to art” wrote Keith Haring in his brief manifesto that encompassed his deep commitment to changing the social politics of art. Painting truth to power, Haring’s interest in semiotics evolved into the creation of a visual language that emboldened New York’s counter-culture. Graffiti, hip-hop and the underground New York scene are evoked through witty compositions of energetic figurines that vibrate with incomparable dynamism. Criticizing the art market’s elitism as well as the self-referential nature of its art, Haring looked to the city around him for inspiration. He portrayed the experience of the marginalized masses in a pictorial language that resembled the urban landscape. In doing so, his works provoked viewers into action and ultimately garnered universal admiration.

Keith Haring’ Broadway Studio, New-York, June 1987

With an incomparable drive for artistic exploration in his later years, Haring, like Picasso and other Modern artists before him, ventures into the diverse artistic language of the African continent. Fascinated by the geometrical construction of African masks, Red, Yellow, Blue #9 mimics the use of solid abstraction while preserving his signature dynamic line to compose a figure. The portrait is delineated through the interaction between negative and positive spaces in specific colors. Similarly to Mondrian, Miró, and Calder, Haring works primarily with strong lines and primary colors to render the face – imbuing it with simulated motion through its vigorously distorted geometric shapes. On a black background reminiscent of his early subway station chalk drawings, he presents us with a figure that looks back at the viewer in palpable defiance. Red, Yellow, Blue #9 is a manifestation of Haring’s distinctive creativity and personal ethos.

KEITH HARING
Untitled (Acrobats)
, 1982
Sumi ink on paper mounted to canvas
72×192 inches (182.9 x 487.7 cm)
Sotheby’s New-York: 8 December 2021
USD 5,491,950

A leading figure of street art and the New York underground movement, Keith Haring was doubtless one of the most audacious and charismatic artists of his time. Having achieved the amazing feat of imposing his own unique style on the international art scene in only just ten years, he died just before the age of 32, leaving a void which has never since been filled. A popular figure, protestor and activist, Keith Haring never withdrew in face of difficulty and managed to become a star of contemporary art whilst never abandoning the street. He has often been reproached for his swift ascension. Yet, it was his celebrity which allowed him to tackle the great political and social issues of his time and to influence generations of artists in a profound and ever-lasting fashion. The all-over composition of this impressive, large-scale drawing which covers the entire surface, is absolutely disturbing. The all-over composition, the choice of palette, the proliferation of the motif, the spontaneity of line all inscribe Untitled as much within the tradition of great American painting at the turn of the 20th century as within street art. Like Dubuffet with L’Hourloupe or the authors of the mysterious ancestral Nazca geoglyphs whose biomorphic lines are still the subject of numerous theories, Keith Haring developed his expression in unexplored territories.

 

 

KEITH HARING
Untitled, 1985
Oil and acrylic on shaped canvas
Diameter: 36 inches (91.4 cm)
Christie’s New-York: 11 November 2021
USD 1,470,000

KEITH HARING
Untitled, 1984
Acrylic on canvas, in four parts
Each: 60×60 inches (152.4 x 152.4cm)
Overall: 120×120 inches (304.8 x 304.8cm)
Christie’s London: 29 June 2021
GBP 4,301,250

Originally owned by the celebrated German gallerist Paul Maenz—who unveiled the work in Cologne shortly after its creation—Keith Haring’s Untitled is an extraordinary masterpiece that prophesies the dawn of a new era. Dating from 1984, the year that the first Apple Macintosh was released, it stands among the earliest painterly depictions of a computer, heralding the birth of the digital age. Across four conjoined panels measuring nine square metres, a sci-fi bacchanal unfolds: flying saucers collide mid-air, while angels soar, monsters writhe and disembodied limbs pluck aeroplanes from their flight paths. At the centre, the computer reigns, mounted on a pyramid like an ancient deity. The structure assumes an anthropomorphic form, with the machine serving as the head; its outstretched arms, like scales, hold a spaceship and a human brain, as if triumphantly having superseded both as the world’s determining force. Tiny figures bow down before it, their arms raised in ecstatic worship. Loaned to the Neues Museum, Weimar, between 1993 and 2005, the work captures the clairvoyant power of Haring’s art: he could not have known that, nearly forty years later, it would be possible to buy the painting in cryptocurrency.

 

KEITH HARING
Untitled, 1985
Oil and acrylic on canvas
Diameter: 36 inches (91.4 cm)
Phillips New-York: 23 June 2021
USD 1,482,000

Acquired directly from Haring’s primary dealer and friend Tony Shafrazi, Keith Haring’s Untitled belongs to a discrete series of tondo canvases painted in 1985. Grappling with themes of inequality and power, the present composition depicts an outstretched figure being plucked apart by the hands of higher forces. While studying at the School of Visual Arts, Haring developed his highly recognizable figurative style that evidences his interest in semiotics, or the study of signs, to interrogate the ability for images to communicate meaning by stripping them down to their most rudimentary forms. Coalescing the lighthearted appeal of cartoon imagery with the raw energy Jean Dubuffet’s Art Brut, Untitled embodies Haring’s investigations on the systems of power in contemporary culture expressed through simplified, bold outlines. A leitmotif in Haring’s oeuvre, the X-sign on the figure’s stomach signifies a target of anti-establishment, exemplifying Haring’s thematic explorations on social inequity and subjugation.

 

2. Works on Vinyl Tarpaulin


KEITH HARING (1958-1990)
Untitled, 1987
Acrylic on canvas tarp
95 x 95 ¼ inches (241.3 x 241.9 cm)
Sotheby’s New-York: 16 November 2022
Estimated: USD 3,000,000 – 4,000,000
USD 3,922,000

Dazzlingly vibrant and brimming with graphic positivity, Keith Haring’s Untitled of 1987 is emblematic of the compositional dynamism and iconic figuration from one of the most upbeat and confident artistic voices of our time. Created in the final years of Haring’s life, Untitled is a seminal example of the artist’s distinct visual language, and his determination to celebrate music, movement and an interconnected human spirit through his art– despite the overwhelming challenges of the decade. Across the monumental tarp, Haring depicts three tiers of interlocking figures in a moment of spectacular activity, rendered in the bold, simplistic chromatic pallet for which he is best known. Commissioned by renowned gallerist Martin S. Blinder for the Martin Lawrence Gallery 1987 annual calendar, the present work has remained in the private collection of famed Tony Shafrazi since it was acquired in 1995. Since its completion, the present work has been exhibited among Haring’s most prominent exhibitions, including his solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York in 1997, The Keith Haring Show at Fondazione Triennale di Milano in 2005, and was exhibited extensively at Shafrazi’s own Chelsea gallery, including the 20-year memorial show commemorating Haring’s tragic passing in 2010. Exemplary of the vibrant urban environment by which Haring’s oeuvre was so heavily inspired, Untitled endures as a record of the artist’s prolific career.

 

KEITH HARING
Untitled, 1981
Vinyl ink on vinyl tarpaulin
50×50 inches (127 x 127 cm)
Christie’s New-York: 13 May 2021
USD 2,210,000

Executed in 1981, Untitled (Smiling Face), is a superb example from Keith Haring’s early iconic years as an artist in New York City. Haring emblazons an all-seeing and totemic visage across his expansive four-foot tarpaulin surface that pulsates with boisterous energy and a jubilant sense of life. This chromatically striking composition originated from his famed graffiti chalk Subway Drawings that besieged the blank advertising spaces that lined underground station walls. Set against a vibrant red and white background, a graphic and bold smiling face memorializes the ephemeral imagery that launched Haring’s career. Produced with Haring’s signature trifecta of black, white and red, Untitled (Smiling Face) demonstrates his devotion to this combination of hues, equating the color red, specifically, to blood and power.

 

KEITH HARING
Untitled, 1983
Vinyl paint on vinyl tarpaulin with metal grommets
73×73 inches (185.4 x 185.4 cm)
Christie’s New-York: 8 March 2021
USD 3,000,000

In the same private collection since it was acquired from the famed Tony Shafrazi Gallery in New York nearly forty years ago, Keith Haring’s Untitled offers up a dynamic and energetic display of the iconic forms that propelled the artist to worldwide fame. Along with his friend Jean-Michel Basquiat, Haring became one of the central figures of the New York art scene in the early 1980s, emerging (quite literally in Haring’s case) from the underground art scene to become one of the decade’s biggest art stars. His cartoon-like figures became a recognizable part of subway graffiti until the artist expanded his repertoire and began working on a larger-scale; thus, his energetic compositions became emblematic of this exciting period. Untitled is one of Haring’s full-sized paintings executed on his favored choice of support: a commercially available industrial tarpaulin. Constrained only by the physical dimensions of the canvas, the artist packs his composition with color and movement in an energetic display of bravado. In what amounts to a virtuoso performance, his unique forms twist and turn in a form of exotic dance. A large anthropomorphic figure emerges from a hole in the ground; like the genie emerging from his lamp, this mysterious figure expands to dominate the composition. Within its bold black silhouette, Haring completes the form with hundreds of white spots, all placed randomly yet uniformly to produce an even flow of dots. At the base of this central figure, two attendants kneel with their arms raised aloft as if paying homage to this ghostly apparition. This sense of movement is further highlighted by a series of “vibration marks,” visual devices used by comic book artists to give a sense of movement to otherwise stationary figures. These visual tropes appear throughout this particular work, infusing this packed composition with a palpable sense of dynamism.

3. Works on Metal/Wood


 

KEITH HARING (1958-1990)
Untitled, 1982
Enamel and DayGlo on metal, in artist’s painted frame
90 1/4 x 72 inches (229.2 x 182.9 cm)
Christie’s New-York: 17 November 2022
Estimated: USD 4,000,000 – 6,000,000
USD 5,820,000

A singular visionary of the early 1980s New York City art world, Keith Haring established a dazzling personal iconography that continues to inspire generations decades after his untimely passing. Untitled is a dynamic example of the artist’s ability to connect with audiences through seemingly simple forms that contain multitudes of meaning. Beginning as a street artist painting on walls, billboards, and train cars, Haring crafted his career from quick marks on nontraditional surfaces but ultimately built a global language recognized by many regardless of their cultural upbringing. The artist wanted to break barriers and diversify what generations before had prescribed as an audience for art. He wanted to create “a more holistic and basic idea of wanting to incorporate [art] into every part of life, less as an egotistical exercise and more natural somehow. I don’t know how to exactly explain it. Taking it off the pedestal. I’m giving it back to the people, I guess” (K. Haring, quoted in D. Drenger, “Art and Life: An Interview with Keith Haring,” in Columbia Art Review, Spring 1988, p. 53). By transcending the walls of the art institutions through installations, clothing, site-specific paintings, and his Pop Shop, Haring was able to spread his vision outward and become a towering icon of American creativity.

Keith Haring in his studio, 1982. Photo: © Allan Tannenbaum. Artwork: © The Keith Haring Foundation.

Painted on aluminum in the artist’s unmistakable style, a green figure spins on its head against a speckled floor. Using cartoon-like signifiers such as motion and impact lines, Haring establishes an air of frenetic movement within the two-dimensional composition. The green of the body is enclosed by an even black outline that separates it from the vivid orange atmosphere of the work, its surface unbroken by even the slightest brushstroke or mottling in the paint. The left toe just kisses the upper edge of the picture plane while the head is planted firmly on the ground line full of short, dripping black strokes. Across the center of the piece, one notices the line where two sections of the support are joined, and Haring has made certain that the custom frame is incorporated with his overall aesthetic by painting it brilliant yellow and covering it with a snaking squiggle that encompasses the vivacious scene. Though the forms are clear and the image is straightforward, the ability of Untitled and its brethren to fully absorb the viewer is nothing short of wondrous. Haring himself explained that he actively sought this immersive element in the finished product as well as during the creation process. “See, when I paint, it is an experience that, at its best, is transcending reality,” he noted. “When it is working, you completely go into another place, you’re tapping into things that are totally universal, of the total consciousness, completely beyond your ego and your own self. That’s what it’s all about” (K. Haring, quoted in D. Sheff, “Keith Haring: An Intimate Conversation,” in Rolling Stone, August 1989). Haring never strayed too far from his graffiti roots, and the youthful energy of illegal painting in public areas always bubbled just below the surface of his works even when presented in a gallery or museum context.

KEITH HARING (1958-1990)
Untitled, 1983
Enamel on carved wood
69 ⅜ x 70 ⅝ x 2 ⅜ inches (176.2 x 179.4 x 6 cm)
Sotheby’s New-York: 17 November 2022
Estimated: USD 800,000 – 1,200,000
USD 1,925,500

Executed in 1983, Keith Haring’s Untitled represents the unencumbered spirit of urban art with the elegance of fine art forwhich the artist is best known. Keith Haring was among the first group of artists to successfully transition from the streets to the gallery, shaking up the 1980s art scene with his idiosyncratic and instantly recognizable visual language. Towards the end of 1983, Haring began experimenting with wood panels, discovering a method to carve his trademark lines into the surface of the material to create a three dimensional effect. He learned about the process from his friend Kermit Oswald, whose father was a carpenter. Using a wood router, a specialized power tool used to hollow out or incise wooden surfaces, Haring was able to quickly and efficiently carve intricate patterns into wood panels. Untitled was part of this sensational new body of work created for the now legendary exhibition at Tony Shafrazi Gallery which took place at the end of 1983 and into 1984. Haring unveiled a series of extraordinary enamel on wood paintings and sculptures. The memorable show was particularly noteworthy for the artist’s radical exhibition design, covering the walls in spray paint, and hanging the works on top, resulting in an installation that resembled an immersive Haring Gesamtkunstwerk. The artworks that were included in this boundary breaking show have since been regarded as some of the preeminent and influential works in his oeuvre.

KEITH HARING
Untitled
, 1982
Acrylic on wood
53×25 inches (134.3 x 63.5 cm)
Sotheby’s New-York: 11 March 2022
USD 504,000

 

KEITH HARING
Untitled (For John Sex), 1982
Acrylic and Day-Glo on wood
23.2 x 23.2 inches (59.1 x 59.1 cm)
Phillips New-York: 23 June 2021
USD 899,999

Keith Haring’s Untitled (For John Sex) is an electric composition packed with vibrant color and energetic dynamism that was a personal gift to one of the artist’s closest friends, John McLoughlin, better known by his stage name, John Sex. The present work is rendered in Haring’s signature lexicon of symbols and cyphers and depicts a figure hammering a cross into the ground, perhaps a reference to Club 57—the critical locale that would nurture their careers as well as their close friendship. Created in January 1982, just months before Haring’s breakout inclusion alongside Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol at documenta 7 in Kassel and his first solo show at Tony Shafrazi Gallery, the work encapsulates the vivacious energy of the 1980s New York art scene.

KEITH HARING
Untitled, 1983
Enamel on carved wood
31 x 20.1 x 2.2 inches (78.7 x 51.1 x 5.7 cm)
Sotheby’s New-York: 13 May 2021
USD 615,000

Boasting vibrant, dynamic energy, Keith Haring’s Untitled from 1983 encapsulates the artist’s iconic visual practice. Haring’s instantly recognizable dancing figures with energy lines are carved into the painted black construction, their bright red outlines boldly popping against the dark background. Haring was intrigued by ancient narratives and symbols, such as hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt; this inspired Haring’s ability to invest vast meaning into a single, repeated symbol. Haring created his own visual lexicon that became ingrained within the landscape of New York City, and his energetic, bold line came to define not only his oeuvre but his personality and presence within the art world. The figures in the present lot embody Harin’ys celebration of music and movement, and the dancing forms are layered with graphic force. At the pinnacle of the tiered wooden form is the central figure of Haring’s vocabulary: the radiant baby. Entirely encircled with energy lines, the baby stands out against its fellow forms, yet all join together in Haring’s recognizable celebratory, energetic motion.

 

4. Works on Paper


 

KEITH HARING (1958-1990)
Untitled (Marilyn Monroe), 1981
Sumi ink on paper
38 ½ x 26 ¾ inches (97.8 x 67.9 cm)
Sotheby’s New-York: 17 November 2022
Estimated: USD 200,000 – 300,000
USD 227,000

KEITH HARING (1958-1990)
Untitled (Elvis Presley), 1981
Sumi ink on paper
38 ½ x 26 ¾ inches (97.8 x 67.9 cm)
Sotheby’s New-York: 17 November 2022
Estimated: USD 200,000 – 300,000
USD 227,000

KEITH HARING
Untitled
, 1989
Sumi ink on paper
30 x 22.5 inches (76.2 x 57.2 cm)
Sotheby’s New-York: 13 May 2021
USD 277,200

KEITH HARING
Untitled
, 1982
Sumi ink on paper
23.7 x 29 inches (60.3 x 73.7 cm)
Sotheby’s New-York: 13 May 2021
USD 138,600

KEITH HARING
Untitled, 1983
Oilstick on paper
17.2 x 25 inches (43.8 x 63.4 cm)
Christie’s London: 24 March 2021
GBP 250,000