Detail of Keith Haring Untitled (Bill T. Jones), 1984.
The early 1980s were highly prolific years for Keith Haring, as the artist teamed up with some of the leading figures of the New York art and social scene. Among them was the award-winning choreographer and provocative dancer Bill T. Jones, who rose to prominence when he founded the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company with his long-term partner Arnie Zane.
Keith and Bill crossed paths in London in 1983 at a time when the graffiti artist was opening a major show at the Robert Fraser Gallery, and together they produced a series of exceptional collaborations in both performance and drawing.
Keith Haring drawing in studio
Explaining the artistic connection that Jones felt with Haring in a 2009 interview with Alanna Martinez, he affirmed "Arnie Zane and I were also very interested in getting out of the avant-garde ghetto. Haring had found a way by going into another ghetto...I really loved the fact that he was a tag artist, and that he could go in and out of that milieu. And I saw at least a feeling, if not exactly a one-to-one corollary, between what Arnie and I were trying to do and our critique of high and low, and Keith's modus operandi, which very much moved from the art gallery to the streets."
For this series Haring borrowed Jones' body — from head to toe — as the canvas to his work. At the end of a process lasting over fours hours, the choreographer found himself all covered in white acrylic paint with the characteristic bold pictograms that represent Haring's artistic signature.
Keith Haring Untitled (Bill T. Jones), 1984
Next, Tseng Kwong Chi photographed Jones performing freely and spontaneously in the studio, and the collaboration between the three artists resulted in the production of black and white photographs that are nothing less than pure artistic magic. From 1984, the work from our December New Now sale in London is ink on photographic paper, executed on Tseng Kwong Chi's photograph. The piece is signed, titled, inscribed and dated 'K. Haring Photo: Tseng Kwong Chi, Model: Bill T. Jones Keith Haring 1984 April 24' on the reverse.
By expanding the black graffiti-like pattern to the white background — making Jones' sinuous body barely discernible — Haring definitively imprinted his own seal.