Keith Haring - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale London Tuesday, October 20, 2020 | Phillips

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  • Overview

    Forming part of a series of rare, larger-than-life masks that Keith Haring executed in 1987, Untitled (Grace Jones Mask) rises over a metre in height, and evinces a vibrant mint green interspersed with looping lines of silver. At the tip of the mask’s triangular composition, a small round red excrescence protrudes into the viewer’s space, delineating the anthropomorphic figure’s discreet mouth. Despite deriving from a body of work that stands out from the rest of Haring’s creative output, the artist’s masks – of which only eight have been created, all in 1987 – display a visual blend of chromatic dynamism and formal whimsicality that is distinctly recognisable as his own. Notably, Untitled (Grace Jones Mask) features the artist’s idiosyncratic graffiti lines in enamel paint, as well as cartoonish strokes surrounding the mask’s eyes, mouth and forehead. In its quasi-tribal rendering, Untitled (Grace Jones Mask) attests to Haring’s ethnographic investigations into folk art and various cultural expressions, following from a tradition of modern masters – Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Constantin Brancusi, among others – who similarly studied traditional masks and totems in their sculptural and painterly practices. Signifying the masks’ importance and singularity within Haring’s oeuvre, Large Goon Mask, 1987 – another example from the artist’s sequence of eight thematic sculptures – currently resides in the collection of the Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin, as part of a permanent loan from the Marx Collection.

  • Keith Haring’s 8 Masks from 1987

  • As suggested in the work’s title, Untitled (Grace Jones Mask) specifically references the iconic Jamaican model, actress and singer Grace Jones, whom Haring shared a friendship with since their first artistic encounter in 1984 – orchestrated by Andy Warhol and immortalised by Robert Mapplethorpe. Having collaborated with Jones on another project shortly prior the execution of the present work, Haring envisioned the model as the quintessential embodiment of postmodern New York – what the writer Alison Pearlman defined as a ‘futuristic-primitivist style’.Continually inspired by her brash presence and her ability to immerse herself within diverse cultural realms, Haring mingled with Jones in both artistic and social capacities, most frequently locating their joint creative enterprises at the Paradise Garage – New York’s most vibrant discotheque and festive LGBTQ centre. Untitled (Grace Jones Mask), recycling imagery that Haring had used in body-painting sessions with Jones since 1984, and marking a specific nod to the headdress he created for her during their first communal venture, is a rare perennial artefact cementing the two creatives’ visionary friendship.


    Possibly serving as further inspiration for the present work, Haring recounted a thematically related encounter which coincided with the period during which Untitled (Grace Jones Mask) and its sister works were produced. In March 1987, on a trip to Munich to visit Niki de Saint Phalle’s show, Haring had attended a lunch at which his friend Jean Tinguely, ‘fun as usual!’, had ‘brought masks [...] and turned the atmosphere around immediately!’.ii With Haring’s art frequently being informed by his life (and vice versa), it appears possible that the artist’s unique venture into mask-making – constricted to the year of 1987 – was influenced by this specific event.


    The Influence of Grace Jones


    Recording Haring’s friendship and artistic partnership with Grace Jones, Untitled (Grace Jones Mask) was created on the heels of the actress’s important cinematic venture a year prior – the feature film Vamp, in which she played the Queen of Vampires, Katrina. In this film, Jones’s body and face were painted by Haring in eccentric, primary colours – in fine amounting to an appearance that eluded her likeness entirely. In the present work, the sculptural form’s anthropomorphic silhouette, along with its distinct colour combination, provide a resounding echo to Katrina’s red hair, red lips and green eyes in Vamp. In addition to the chromatic paint covering her face, Katrina sported Haring’s instinctive and primary lines all over her body, making ‘her look like a tribal queen, dancing for her gods’.iii With white patterns marking ‘the flow of energy and topography of Jones’s body’, Jones was ‘transformed into a power site’, wrote Miriam Kershaw.iv



    Having painted Jones’s body multiple times in the mid-1980s, notably whilst filming the music video for her infamous single ‘I’m Not Perfect (But I’m Perfect for You)’, Haring had never yet dedicated a sculptural object to the model. An exceptional feature within his body of sculptural masks (Haring only dedicated two masks: the other being to his Cubist predecessor Pablo Picasso), Untitled (Grace Jones Mask)’s direct address to Grace Jones denotes the increasingly close relationship the two shared following their first collaboration. After Andy Warhol had orchestrated their artistic introduction for a shoot destined to feature in Interview Magazine in 1984, Haring and Jones continued working together on various projects, most often blending the artist’s painterly endeavours with the model’s striking corporeal presence. About Haring and Jones’ symbiotic collaborations, Miriam Kershaw wrote, ‘Jones’ performances gave dynamic expression to the aesthetic of the 1980s that Haring and Warhol helped to formulate. According to Haring, Jones was a signifier for everything he admired in the global crossroads of postmodern New York’.Indeed, Jones’s body was the ultimate canvas onto which Haring could explore his two foremost aesthetic obsessions: primitive and Pop. The method furthermore presented itself as a natural extension of his ephemeral artistic creations, most famously devised in the streets of New York. Like subway graffiti and wall art, the paint atop Jones’s body could live for just a moment in time before dissolving upon performative completion. 


    Douglas Kirkland, Keith Haring and Grace Jones in preparation of Vamp, 1986, pigment print on archival paper. Image: Douglas Kirkland.

    A product of his time simultaneously vested with the significance of past art-historical narratives, Haring wove frequent allusions to electronic media, television and cartoons in his work, whilst at the same time infusing imagery from Aztec, Mayan, North African and Aboriginal cultures. As noted by the cultural critic and scholar of African art Robert Farris Thompson, Haring most certainly borrowed from the ritual painting of white stripes on men’s bodies by Masai East Africans in order to create Jones’s costume in her 1984 and 1985 Paradise Garage performances. Equally, the present work’s instinctive aesthetic is undeniably informed by the artist’s longstanding interest in intersecting times and cultures, specifically the fusion of the urban and the ritualistic. Coded with ancestral ethnological signs, and taking the form of an object which for centuries formed part of specific rituals in African tribes, Untitled (Grace Jones Mask) along with its sister works pinpoint the culmination of Haring’s investigation into tribal aesthetics – an allusion rendered explicit by the title of another mask from the present series, Hollywood African Mask


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    Alison Pearlman, Unpackaging Art of the 1980s, Chicago, 2003, p. 91.
    ii Keith Haring, ‘1987’, Keith Haring Journals, London, 2010, n.p.
    iii Catalina Dibs, ‘Robert Mapplethorpe’s pictures of Grace Jones painted by Keith Haring, commissioned by Andy Warhol’, Katari Mag, undated, online.
    iv Miriam Kershaw, ‘Postcolonialism and Androgyny: The Performance Art of Grace Jones’, Art Journal, Vol. 56, No. 4, p. 23.
    v Miriam Kershaw, ‘Postcolonialism and Androgyny: The Performance Art of Grace Jones’, Art Journal, Vol. 56, No. 4, p. 23.

    • Provenance

      Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York
      Hokin Gallery Inc., Palm Beach
      Private Collection, New York
      Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2017

    • Exhibited

      New York, Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Keith Haring, Sculpture and Painting, 17 January - 14 February 1987
      Fondazione La Triennale di Milano, The Keith Haring Show, 27 September 2005 - 29 January 2006, no. 109, p. 264 (illustrated)
      New York, Sotheby's S2 Gallery, Keith Haring: Shine On, 30 March - 23 April 2012

    • Literature

      Jeffrey Deitch, Suzanne Geiss and Julia Gruen, eds., Keith Haring, New York, 2008, p. 431 (illustrated)

    • 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

Sold to Benefit The Bedari Foundation


Untitled (Grace Jones Mask)

signed and dated '© K. Haring 1987 ⨁' on the reverse
enamel on aluminium
113 x 110.5 x 31.8 cm (44 1/2 x 43 1/2 x 12 1/2 in.)
Executed in 1987.

Full Cataloguing

£1,500,000 - 2,000,000 

Sold for £1,716,500

Contact Specialist

Kate Bryan
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+44 20 7318 4026

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 20 October 2020