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  • Provenance

    Kristen Haring, New York (gifted by the artist)
    Deitch Projects, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2008

  • Catalogue Essay

    “He is one of those special artists who expand the definition of what an artist is, of what an artist can do – of what art is.” (Jeffrey Deitch, The Keith Haring Show, 2005, online).

    A spell-binding hybridisation of painting, typography and graffiti inspired tagging, Untitled is a rare example from Haring’s prolific yet short career. A stellar composition of cosmic gold and black extra-terrestrial figures interact, uniting to form a distinct whole. Penetrating one another, binary asexual bodies bind, espousing a reductive symmetrical design, two ovoid cavities pierce each post-human entity. The interwoven and perforated figures make Untitled somewhat of a rarity, as Haring’s figures are often running, jumping or chasing one another in a spirited manner. The celestial colour palette of the present work is exceptional - few gold and black paintings have appeared at auction in recent years.

    Minimalist in his endeavours, Haring reduces his forms to their most basic components, evoking child-like drawings, archaic cave paintings as well as a rudimentary street-style aesthetic. As such, Haring’s system of expression and economy of line offers a wondrously idiosyncratic design whilst simultaneously drawing upon Egyptian hieroglyphics, Japanese, Chinese, and Mayan pictograms, and Aztec or Aboriginal rarities. Utilising such cultural references as a point of departure, Haring established a unique and progressive visual lexicon. Accordingly artist Peter Halley comments, ‘I would say that [Haring] was one of the few artists around 1980 that did not seem to be appropriating or referring to another style. I think that’s the strength of the work. In fact, in many ways, I think he looks ahead, to things like Japanese graphics and the importance of cartoons and comic books as a kind of universal populist language.’ (Peter Halley in conversation with Gianni Mercurio in Gianni Mercurio (ed.), Keith Haring,Musee d’Art Contemporain de Lyon, 2008, p.81).

    Untitled calls to mind Auguste Rodin’s The Kiss, 1901-04, and Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss, 1907-08, as well as Constantin Brancusi’s Le Baiser, 1907-08. While these earlier examples depict static embraces that both blend eroticism and idealism - images of adoration and sexual love - Haring introduces a profound sense of ambiguity. Examining Untitled, the artist appears to simulate a story teller as an intriguing narrative unfolds. The pair depicted are inherently performative, fighting yet instantaneously embracing. Pugnacious, turbulent yet amorous, the viewer must subjectively interpret the intimate encounter. Ambiguously titled, Haring deconstructs objectivity, demanding that the viewer participate in the meaning of the piece. Thus, the viewer is always at the centre of Haring’s creations. As the artist remarks, ‘The viewer creates the reality, the meaning, the conception of the piece,’ adding, ‘I have created a reality that is not complete until it is met with the ideas of another human being’ (Keith Haring, October 1978, p.13, in Keith Haring, Keith Haring Journals, London, 2010).

    Untitled conveys an irresistible immediacy, evident in the singular and decisive brush strokes that dominate the work. The parallel lines surrounding the figures further allude to a pulsating vitality, typical of Haring’s artistic production Influenced by the sub-culture of New York in the 1980s, Haring’s series of drawings executed in the New York subway first brought his work to the forefront of the world. These particular drawings led to the works produced for The Times Square Show of graffiti art in 1980, in which Haring and his contemporary, Jean-Michel Basquiat, were singled out as the daring new faces of the art world. Haring’s first major gallery presentation followed in 1982, at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery in New York. More recently, a compelling work was included in Fast forward: Painting from the 1980s at Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, in May 2017. Today, Haring stands alone as the father of Neo Pop Art, pioneering a movement in painting that arguably lasted the length of the artist’s lifetime - a comet-like epoch in the Western art historical canon.

  • 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 Jan 31 1984' on the reverse
metallic gold paint and black enamel on sheet metal
152.3 x 145.5 cm (59 7/8 x 57 1/4 in.)
Executed in 1984, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from the Keith Haring Studio LLC and is registered under the application number 040909A1.

£1,200,000 - 1,800,000 

Sold for £2,333,000

Contact Specialist
Henry Highley
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+ 44 20 7318 4061 [email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 29 June 2017