Keith Haring - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Friday, March 4, 2022 | Phillips

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  • 'Drawing is still basically the same as it has been since prehistoric times. It brings together man and the world. It lives through magic.' —Keith HaringUntitled is a vibrant and lively work by the groundbreaking and celebrated New York-based artist Keith Haring. Painted in 1987, the work marks Haring’s stay in Knokke, Belgium which, by invitation of Roger Nellens, Haring visited on commission to paint a mural. Nellens was a self-taught Belgian artist and sought to continue the legacy of his father and brother who had previously commissioned works by René Magritte and Paul Delvaux. For the next three years, Haring would visit and stay at Nellens’ home in Knokke every summer. Whilst there, Haring completed his immense mural at the Channel Surf Club to a watchful and festive crowd of onlookers. During this period Haring also famously lived inside of Niki de Saint-Phalle’s The Dragon, a large outdoor sculpture park that Roger Nellens and his wife Fabienne commissioned in 1973 for their son Xavier. The dating and inscription ' Jun 25 - 87 KNOKKE' on the reverse of the present work on paper gives it site specificity and anchors this work in those happy times the artist spent in Knokke.
    'He had perfectly found his place in Knokke. He was accessible to all. At the same time, he had the capacity to guard his distances. Something that I appreciated a lot: Keith remained himself, he didn’t belong to anybody.'
    —Xavier Nellens

    Untitled teems with the artist’s iconic figures that dance characteristically across a white ground. Depicted in a strong black outline, bordered in vivid red, the figures, spirited and animated, are captured in a moment of euphoric transformation. The bold lines encase quicker and looser rapid markings, they combine the essential power of early cave paintings and freedom and physicality reminiscent of the work of Cy Twombly and Sol LeWitt. Haring’s quick and rapid drawings and symbols form a unique language, allowing the artist’s conscious mind to let loose and filter out reason or planned execution.

    Haring rose to prominence in 1980s New York, alongside his friends and contemporaries Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jenny Holzer and Kenny Scharf. Straddling the gap between high-end art and graffiti, Haring would furtively decorate New York City’s subway tunnels and sidewalks. His works both embrace cartoons amusing qualities, along with the raw energy of Art Brut, developing a uniquely pop-graffiti aesthetic.


    The present example is associated with a poignant time in the artist’s tragically short career: It was executed the year after Haring opened his famous ‘Pop Shop’ in Soho, New York, and the beginning of his important friendship with Andy Warhol which marked a new chapter in his already rising success. It is also the year before the artist was diagnosed with AIDS in the autumn of 1988.


    The apparent optimism throughout Haring’s ouevre contradicts the social commentary of the works themselves. Very much a reporter of his time, Haring was a political activist and through seemingly harmless and playful compositions, he boldly addressed issues of capitalism, sexuality and later, the AIDS epidemic. The importance of Haring’s work is continuously met with rising critical acclaim; he has been the subject of solo shows at Museum Folkwang (2020), MoMA (2019-20) Tate, Liverpool (2019) among many other institutions.


    Collector's Digest

    •    Keith Haring came to prominence in 1980s New York with his graffiti style which bridged the gap between high and low art.


    •    He was famously friends and associates with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol.


    •    His ‘Pop Shops’ and subway drawings made art accessible to all audiences. 


    •    Through his playful graphic style, Haring was able to address difficult subjects surrounding politics, social difficulties, and sexuality. 


    •    Keith Haring was recently the subject of solo exhibitions at Museum Folkwang (2020), MoMA (2019-20) Tate, Liverpool (2019) among many other institutions. 

    • Provenance

      Gallery 121, Antwerp
      Private Collection
      Phillips, New York, 16 May 2014, lot 200
      Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Antwerp, Gallery 121, Keith Haring, July - August 1989

    • 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



signed, inscribed and dated 'Jun 25 - 87 © K Haring. KNOKKE' on the reverse
sumi ink on paper
58.1 x 76.7 cm (22 7/8 x 30 1/4 in.)
Executed in 1987.

Full Cataloguing

£100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for £126,000

Contact Specialist

Simon Tovey

Specialist, Associate Director, Head of Day Sale, 20th Century & Contemporary Art
+44 20 7318 4084

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 4 March 2022