Keith Haring - New Now New York Tuesday, September 19, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Private Collection (a gift from the artist)
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Painted in 1987 at the height of Keith Haring’s tragically short career, Red-Yellow-Blue #16 (Portrait of Adolpho) is an intimate and distinctive portrait of Haring’s last studio assistant, Adolfo Arena. Adolfo was first hired by Haring to work at the Pop Shop on Lafayette Street in the spring of 1986, having recently graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a degree in fashion merchandising and retailing. The following year, Adolfo replaced Haring’s studio assistant and worked with him until the end of his life. Adolfo passionately recalled his studio position: “The way I saw the job was, like, “Keith, you paint and let me do the rest.” That meant I would even be willing to brawl with anyone who wasn’t supposed to be in the studio… I tried keeping myself in tune to what went down at the studio, being alert about things and intuiting what was needed before Keith asked for it. This showed him I was on my toes” (Adolfo Arena, quoted in John Gruen, Keith Haring: The Authorized Biography, New York, 1991, p. 201).
    Red-Yellow-Blue #16 (Portrait of Adolpho) belongs to a series of works that Haring executed in 1987, which include large-scale metal masks and paintings limited to a palette of black and primary colors. Exhibited at Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York in 1987, these works pay homage to the primitivist and modernist tradition pioneered by Picasso, Braque and Brancusi that Haring admired. Rendered in Haring’s characteristic confident lines and pared down to its most basic features, Red-Yellow-Blue #16 (Portrait of Adolpho) evokes a unique personality that contrasts with Haring’s more typical iconography of anonymous graphic figures. The layered realist representations create a dynamic composition that celebrates Haring and Adolfo’s friendship.

  • 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. 

    View More Works


Red-Yellow-Blue #16 (Portrait of Adolpho)

signed, titled and dated "RED-YELLOW-BLUE #16 (PORTRAIT OF ADOLPHO) © K. Haring JAN 12 87 ⊕" on the overlap
acrylic on canvas
36 x 36 in. (91.4 x 91.4 cm.)
Painted in 1987.

$150,000 - 200,000 

Contact Specialist
Rebekah Bowling
Head of Sale
New York
+ 1 212 940 1250

New Now

New York Auction 19 September 2017