Keith Haring - New Now New York Monday, September 18, 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

    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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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