Keith Haring - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Tuesday, May 16, 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

    Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Keith Haring moved to New York City in 1978 at the age of 20 to study at the School of Visual Arts. By the early 1980s, Haring rose to prominence for his graffiti drawings made in the New York subways and streets. Alongside his friends Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kenny Scharf, who he met at the SVA, Haring became a leading figure of the East Village art scene through the 1970s and 1980s.

    Best known for his cartoon-like imagery developed through bold lines and vibrant colors, Haring refined a visual language of symbols that simplified forms to their most essential elements. Exploring the themes of birth and death, sex and war, social inequality, and love, his art bridged the high and low, erasing the distinctions between rarefied art, political activism, and popular culture. Despite his tragically brief career, Haring created a universal visual language embraced throughout the world, and his works are housed in many major collections including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Art Institute of Chicago, Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris, Ludwig Museum, Cologne, and Nakamura Keith Haring Collection in Hokuto, Japan.

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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