Cruella de Vil

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  • Provenance

    Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York
    Collection of Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, Regensburg
    Phillips de Pury & Company, New York, 7 November 2005, lot 37
    Private Collection, New York
    Skarstedt Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Marseille, A.R.C.A. centre d'art contemporain, New York 85, 9 July - 31 August 1985, p. 57 (illustrated)
    New York, Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Keith Haring, 26 October - 30 November 1985
    Fondazione Triennale di Milano, The Keith Haring Show, 27 September 2005 – 29 January 2006, no. 51, p. 208 (illustrated)
    Reading Public Museum, Keith Haring: Journey of the Radiant Baby, 18 February - 6 August 2006, pl. 1, pp. 36 and 87 (illustrated, p. 60)

  • Literature

    Keith Haring, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1997, p. 186 (illustrated)
    Alexandra Kolossa, Keith Haring 1958-1990: Une vie pour l'art, Cologne, 2004, p. 37 (illustrated, p. 38)
    Alexandra Kolossa, Keith Haring 1958-1990: A life for art, Cologne, 2013, p. 37 (illustrated, p. 38)

  • Video

    Keith Haring, 'Cruella de Vil', Lot 23

    20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale, 2 October 2019

  • Catalogue Essay

    Known for painting radiant cartoon figures roaming freely across variable surfaces, Keith Haring built, over the course of his all-too-short career, an inimitable oeuvre that is today considered as important in the canon of contemporary art as it is in mainstream culture. Executed in 1984, Cruella de Vil is a captivating example from the artist’s body of work. Portraying the eponymous villain from Walt Disney’s infamous 101 Dalmatians – here caught in the malignant act of burning a puppy’s fur with her cigarette butt – Haring delves into the realm of popular culture whilst retaining a style that is distinctly his, operating at a crossroads between vigorous, graffiti mark-making and the jagged angles of Pablo Picasso’s Cubism. Executed at a critical point in the artist’s career, Cruella de Vil marks the first time Haring addressed Walt Disney’s creations in his painterly opus – having only alluded to the cinematic master with six successive drawings of Mickey Mouse in 1981 and 1982. It is further testament to the work’s significance that it was formerly owned by Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, a prominent collector and artist in her own right.

    The basis of Haring’s art was always the drawn line. Beginning to practice his draughtsmanship as a child around the kitchen table, Haring continued cultivating his artistic proclivity during his studies at Pittsburgh's Ivy School of Professional Art. There, he came across the work of Pierre Alechinsky, Jean Dubuffet and Fernand Léger, walking through the galleries of the Carnegie Museum of Art. Inspired by their spontaneity of gesture and unrepressed use of colour, Haring further honed his free-flowing line, materialised in his vibrant subway drawings of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Concerned with the relevance of his imagery, he perpetually pushed contemporaneous art historical discourse into forward-looking trends that echoed the world around him. ‘Living in 1984, the role of the artist has to be different from what it was fifty, or even twenty years ago’, he declared. ‘I am continually amazed at the number of artists who continue working as if the camera were never invented, as if Andy Warhol never existed, as if airplanes and computers and videotape were never heard of’ (Keith Haring, quoted in 'Untitled Statement' , Flash Art, March 1984, p. 24). In 1984, he thus produced the present Cruella de Vil, and the following year, he realised his iconic Andy Mouse character in painting for the first time, conflating Walt Disney’s infamous Mickey and the facial features of his friend and fellow artist Andy Warhol.

    With its bright colours and evocative subject matter, Cruella de Vil is wholly representative of Haring’s tendency to employ innocent iconography in order to deliver unforgiving truths. Wearing the fur of innocent puppies with unrepressed pride, Cruella owns her name as she would a motto. It is interesting to look at the present work in the context of the artist’s oeuvre, and in the thematic line of his artistic output. Ceaselessly attempting to reveal dark truths in friendly guises – typically through the use of his own cartoon figures, dancing with dynamic and sexual fervour – Haring here employs a subject whose cruelty is paired with real-life socio-political tendencies: exploitation materialism, and greed, whilst adopting a deceitful look of sophistication. Unlike other Disney villains, Cruella is physically and capitalistically savvy: she speaks in the current world’s terms of brutality and savagery, benefitting from the suffering of others whilst showing no sign of guilt or compassion. Departing from the innocent figure of Mickey, who seemed more a witful nod to Warhol’s Pop compositions, Cruella is here imparted with the meaning of Haring’s more mature work, as his oeuvre began to reflect the tragedies that fell upon New York’s social landscape in the mid-1980s.

    As powerful as its subject matter, the formal qualities of the present work demonstrate Haring’s need to remain anchored in popular culture, fed by the charismatic presence of the seminal cartoon figures that he had looked up to since his childhood. ‘I consider myself a perfect product of the space age not only because I was born in the year that the first man was launched into space, but also because I grew up with Walt Disney cartoons’, he exclaimed (Keith Haring, quoted in Elisabeth Sussman, Keith Haring, New York, 2008, p. 10). Being the product of TV culture near its genesis, Haring grew up surrounded by these characters, and only naturally began including them in his art. He subsequently merged these with iconic styles culled from art history, as well as symbols or signifiers salvaged from the urban landscape of New York City.

    Within the art historical canon, two painters who had a profound effect on Haring were Pablo Picasso and Andy Warhol. On the one hand, Picasso allowed himself a complete liberty of form in the act of representation that Haring aspired to breathe into his own work; on the other, Warhol introduced the primacy of replication and appropriation in a world where imagery continuously proliferated, and the only solutions to their reaching near-saturation became curation or humour. In the present work, Cruella’s fragmented facial features bear an uncanny resemblance to those of Dora Maar, and her mean gesture, rendered with playfully vibrant hues, presents a commodification of violence akin to Warhol’s Disaster silkscreens. As a result, the painting brims with Haring’s multifarious visual references, adroitly mixing aspects of high and low art.

  • Artist Bio

    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. 

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Ο ◆23

Cruella de Vil

signed, titled, dedicated and dated 'SEPT 18 1984. K. Haring © 84 "CRUELLA DEVILLE" FOR GLORIA - LOVE KEITH 88' on the overlap
acrylic on canvas
152.4 x 152.4 cm (60 x 60 in.)
Painted on 18 September 1984.

Estimate
£500,000 - 700,000 

sold for £975,000

Contact Specialist

Olivia Thornton
Senior Director
Head of 20th Century & Contemporary Art, Europe
+44 20 7318 4099
othornton@phillips.com

 

Rosanna Widén
Director, Senior Specialist
+44 20 7318 4060
rwiden@phillips.com

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 2 October 2019