Gallery view of works from Keith Haring's Pop Shop at Phillips 450 Park Avenue
Promoting branded merchandise sold in Keith Haring's Pop Shop, a selection of works from our upcoming New Now sale belong to the Manhattan store's general manager from the late 1980s to early '90s. Haring opened his retail store on Lafayette Street in 1986 following years of deliberation and discussion with close friend and mentor, Andy Warhol, on the fine line between commercialism and his desire to maintain the respect of the art world.
Keith Haring Pop Shop Signage (Calendar), executed circa 1986-1990
Keith Haring Pop Shop Signage (Skateboards), executed circa 1986-1990
The hugely successful Pop Shop acted as a clubhouse and information center for Haring's work, an immersive experience that was an extension of his artistic vision and that allowed him to make his widely popular imagery accessible to everyone, from collectors to kids from the Bronx.
Further yet, Red-Yellow-Blue #16 (Portrait of Adolpho) is an intimate and distinctive portrait of Haring's last studio assistant, Adolfo Arena, who was first hired by Haring to work at the Pop Shop in the spring of 1986. Adolfo had recently graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a degree in fashion merchandising and retailing. The following year, he replaced Haring's studio assistant and worked with him until the end of his life.
[The painting] evokes a unique personality that contrasts with Haring's more typical...anonymous graphic figures.
Keith Haring Red-Yellow-Blue #16 (Portrait of Adolpho), 1987
As quoted by John Gruen for a 1991 biography of the artist, Adolfo passionately recalled his studio position: "The way I saw the job was, like, 'Keith, you paint and let me do the rest.' That meant I would even be willing to brawl with anyone who wasn't supposed to be in the studio… I tried keeping myself in tune to what went down at the studio, being alert about things and intuiting what was needed before Keith asked for it. This showed him I was on my toes."
Red-Yellow-Blue #16 (Portrait of Adolpho) belongs to a series of works that Haring executed in 1987, which include large-scale metal masks and paintings limited to a palette of black and primary colors. Exhibited at Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York in 1987, these works pay homage to the primitivist and modernist tradition pioneered by Picasso, Braque and Brancusi that Haring admired. Rendered in Haring's characteristic confident lines and pared down to its most basic features, Red-Yellow-Blue #16 (Portrait of Adolpho) evokes a unique personality that contrasts with Haring's more typical iconography of anonymous graphic figures.
The layered realist representations create a dynamic composition that celebrates Haring and Adolfo's friendship.