Keith Haring - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Tuesday, May 15, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

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

  • Catalogue Essay

    Originally created as a gift for artist Jenny Holzer, the present lot by Keith Haring from 1984 features the artist’s characteristic iconography in a frenzied composition that reflects the political uncertainties of the 1980s. The work was made immediately following Haring’s collaboration with Holzer on her project Sign on a Truck, a compilation of interviews conducted by Holzer in New York in the lead up to the 1984 presidential election. Haring identified with the sentiments explored in this video project and had been admiring Holzer’s practice since his last year at the School of Visual Arts in 1979, particularly when she put together The Manifest Show in 1980, featuring politically conscious works with image and text expressing various viewpoints. In Sign on a Truck, Holzer utilized new technologies to project live-camera interviews on a mobile screen on wheels, interspersed with visual, graphic and audio statements by artists including Haring and some of his most well-known contemporaries.

    In response to this project, Haring created the present lot, illustrating a politically charged narrative. The leftmost figure represents Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan, or more symbolically, the Reagan administration; he is depicted with four outstretched arms and a television for a head, towering over a crouching figure in the center. The rightmost figure covers his eyes and appears to be running away in fear, resisting the notoriously effective television advertising from Reagan’s campaign, characterized by Haring’s chosen symbols of a money sign, crucifix and nuclear energy. To make clear this narrative, Haring uses text to spell out “REAGAN” in the upper right corner, perhaps inspired by Holzer’s use of text in many of her works, including Sign on a Truck. The scene is rendered in black ink atop a vividly fluorescent orange paper, enclosed in a hand-drawn smaller box, possibly meant to symbolize the mobile screen from Holzer’s project. As such, the present lot is a personal interpretation of Haring’s own reflection on a meaningful time in his career collaborating with Holzer, rendered in an aesthetic vibrancy that remains true to his unique visual practice.

  • 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 right
ink on paper
25 1/8 x 27 5/8 in. (63.8 x 70.2 cm.)
Executed in 1984, this work is accompanied by a letter from Jenny Holzer confirming the provenance of this artwork.

$150,000 - 200,000 

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 16 May 2018