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£1,200,000 - 1,800,000 ‡
sold for £2,333,000
Kristen Haring, New York (gifted by the artist)
Deitch Projects, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2008
“He is one of those special artists who expand the definition of what an artist is, of what an artist can do – of what art is.” (Jeffrey Deitch, The Keith Haring Show, 2005, online).
A spell-binding hybridisation of painting, typography and graffiti inspired tagging, Untitled is a rare example from Haring’s prolific yet short career. A stellar composition of cosmic gold and black extra-terrestrial figures interact, uniting to form a distinct whole. Penetrating one another, binary asexual bodies bind, espousing a reductive symmetrical design, two ovoid cavities pierce each post-human entity. The interwoven and perforated figures make Untitled somewhat of a rarity, as Haring’s figures are often running, jumping or chasing one another in a spirited manner. The celestial colour palette of the present work is exceptional - few gold and black paintings have appeared at auction in recent years.
Minimalist in his endeavours, Haring reduces his forms to their most basic components, evoking child-like drawings, archaic cave paintings as well as a rudimentary street-style aesthetic. As such, Haring’s system of expression and economy of line offers a wondrously idiosyncratic design whilst simultaneously drawing upon Egyptian hieroglyphics, Japanese, Chinese, and Mayan pictograms, and Aztec or Aboriginal rarities. Utilising such cultural references as a point of departure, Haring established a unique and progressive visual lexicon. Accordingly artist Peter Halley comments, ‘I would say that [Haring] was one of the few artists around 1980 that did not seem to be appropriating or referring to another style. I think that’s the strength of the work. In fact, in many ways, I think he looks ahead, to things like Japanese graphics and the importance of cartoons and comic books as a kind of universal populist language.’ (Peter Halley in conversation with Gianni Mercurio in Gianni Mercurio (ed.), Keith Haring,Musee d’Art Contemporain de Lyon, 2008, p.81).
Untitled calls to mind Auguste Rodin’s The Kiss, 1901-04, and Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss, 1907-08, as well as Constantin Brancusi’s Le Baiser, 1907-08. While these earlier examples depict static embraces that both blend eroticism and idealism - images of adoration and sexual love - Haring introduces a profound sense of ambiguity. Examining Untitled, the artist appears to simulate a story teller as an intriguing narrative unfolds. The pair depicted are inherently performative, fighting yet instantaneously embracing. Pugnacious, turbulent yet amorous, the viewer must subjectively interpret the intimate encounter. Ambiguously titled, Haring deconstructs objectivity, demanding that the viewer participate in the meaning of the piece. Thus, the viewer is always at the centre of Haring’s creations. As the artist remarks, ‘The viewer creates the reality, the meaning, the conception of the piece,’ adding, ‘I have created a reality that is not complete until it is met with the ideas of another human being’ (Keith Haring, October 1978, p.13, in Keith Haring, Keith Haring Journals, London, 2010).
Untitled conveys an irresistible immediacy, evident in the singular and decisive brush strokes that dominate the work. The parallel lines surrounding the figures further allude to a pulsating vitality, typical of Haring’s artistic production Influenced by the sub-culture of New York in the 1980s, Haring’s series of drawings executed in the New York subway first brought his work to the forefront of the world. These particular drawings led to the works produced for The Times Square Show of graffiti art in 1980, in which Haring and his contemporary, Jean-Michel Basquiat, were singled out as the daring new faces of the art world. Haring’s first major gallery presentation followed in 1982, at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery in New York. More recently, a compelling work was included in Fast forward: Painting from the 1980s at Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in May 2017. Today, Haring stands alone as the father of Neo Pop Art, pioneering a movement in painting that arguably lasted the length of the artist’s lifetime - a comet-like epoch in the Western art historical canon.
American • 1958 - 1990
Haring's art and life typified youthful exuberance and fearlessness. While seemingly playful and transparent, Haring dealt with weighty subjects such as death, sex and war, enabling subtle and multiple interpretations.
Throughout his tragically brief career, Haring refined a visual language of symbols, which he called icons, the origins of which began with his trademark linear style scrawled in white chalk on the black unused advertising spaces in subway stations. Haring developed and disseminated these icons far and wide, in his vibrant and dynamic style, from public murals and paintings to t-shirts and Swatch watches. His art bridged high and low, erasing the distinctions between rarefied art, political activism and popular culture.
£1,200,000 - 1,800,000 ‡
sold for £2,333,000
London Auction 29 June 2017