Keith Haring - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Wednesday, May 17, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Jenny Holzer (gifted by the artist)
    Private Collection (acquired from the above)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Instantly recognizable for its black outlined figures in a frenzied composition, Untitled from 1984 exemplifies Keith Haring’s iconic graffiti style art of the 1980s. Originally gifted to fellow contemporary artist Jenny Holzer while collaborating on her project, Sign on a Truck, 1984, the present lot depicts the same vibrancy of this celebrated project, a compilation of interviews with New Yorkers projected on a large color television, in the lead up to the 1984 presidential election. Haring admired Holzer’s Sign on a Truck, and thereafter gifted her the present lot, unique for his signature iconography reproduced on fluorescent green paper.

    In typical pop fashion, Haring continually bridged the gap between high art and the vibrant public culture surrounding him, transgressing traditional barriers and bringing his art directly from the streets of New York to the studio. Untitled features one of Haring’s most recognizable forms—the tower of dancing figures—which he revisited again and again throughout his prolific, yet tragically short career. Inspired by the reduction of form found in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and pre-historic cave paintings, Haring harkens back to these traditional art forms and fuses them with the graffiti imagery that surrounded him in 1980s New York, each contributing to the artist’s signature style as realized in pictorial form. In the present lot, Haring’s five simplistic figures, which evoke a cartoonish innocence reminiscent of children’s drawings, are stacked atop one another and situated against the vibrant green background. The dynamic composition is imbued with a kinetic energy evident in both the reverberating lines that emanate off of the dancing figures, and also distinctly emphasized by the fluorescent green paper that the artist has chosen for Holzer. Such makes the present lot a unique and personal example of the artist’s aesthetic, derived wholly from both the ancient and the present, one to which he remained committed to for the remainder of his career.

  • Artist Biography

    Keith Haring

    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. 

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signed and dated "K. Haring 84 ⊕" lower left
ink on paper
38 x 24 3/4 in. (96.5 x 62.9 cm.)
Executed in 1984, this work is accompanied by a letter from Jenny Holzer confirming the provenance of this artwork.

$180,000 - 250,000 

Sold for $322,000

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

New York Auction 17 May 2017