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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

     

    Sold To Benefit the Bedari Foundation

     

    The Bedari Foundation works with partners to catalyze research, education and cutting-edge solutions to global challenges in mental health, environmental conservation and energy transition. We’re devoted to fostering a world where we minimize harm and maximize nurture for humans and the environment, and strive to empower people to have healthy, harmonious relationships with themselves, others and the planet. 


    But right now, things are moving in the wrong direction.  The world is out of balance, and both people and the planet are suffering.  More stress and mental health problems, more disconnection and conflict, more planetary damage driven by unfettered consumption. We’re operating in a deficit of care – for ourselves and the earth. But this is where our work begins. 


    We’re partnering with individuals and organizations who are coming up with big ideas to combat these challenges, including developing solutions that break cycles of personal and ecological harm. Our approach across mental health and wellness, environmental conservation and the energy transition is anchored in the tentpoles of respect, interdependency, balance and resiliency:

     

    •    We need to foster better whole health by elevating mental, emotional and spiritual wellness and care onto the same plane as physical health

     

    •    We need to reduce human threats to and develop a much more purposeful and strategic coexistence with habitats and species to preserve and protect biodiversity

     

    •    We must better balance our energy needs with preservation of the environment by pragmatically moving towards low carbon energy solutions and continuing to pursue sector innovation and invention

     

    By coupling first-class research, skilled partners and game-changing ideas, we’re ready to take big swings at these issues and make real change happen.

     

    Karingani:  The Bedari Foundation is one of the founders of Karingani, a partnership between conservationists, investors, philanthropists, government and local communities to rehabilitate and preserve one of Africa’s last remaining wilderness areas.  Karingani is dedicated to restoring and revitalizing the biodiversity of 150,000 hectares in Mozambique which holds strategic conservation importance reflected in both its location and the range of habitats it protects. Karingani’s footprint, which encompasses rivers, wetlands, woodlands and open savannah, sits at the crossroads of crucial trans-frontier conservation land, sharing a boundary with the world-famous Kruger National Park. This integrated area of conservation management facilitates wildlife movement between South Africa, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe giving Karingani and its partner communities a vital role to play in ensuring the ecological viability of the entire region. Karingani’s strategy for success is three-fold – pursuing comprehensive environmental restoration, conservation-informed ecotourism, and skills development, jobs creation and economic growth for our local communities.  Our unique model is fueled by multi-sector partnership at scale and working with government, NGOs, academia and private investors to unite our efforts around regional environmental and community vitality and restore one of the most important wildlife habitats in Africa.

     

    UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute:  Established in 2019 with a $20 million gift from The Bedari Foundation, The UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute is a new interdisciplinary organization dedicated to the research, education, and practice of kindness, with the goal of empowering citizens and leaders to invest in building more humane societies. The mission of The UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute is unique in that our goal is two-fold – we’re committed not only to engage in best-in-class research on kindness, but to strategically turn that learning into real-world practices through education and dynamic local, national and global partnerships. Said more simply, we don’t just want people to learn about kindness, we want people to DO kindness. The interdisciplinary research of the Institute will be accessed through deep engagement across UCLA and with strategic outside partners committed to advancing the understanding and practice of kindness globally. 
     

    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

      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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Sold to Benefit The Bedari Foundation

Ο ◆12

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

Estimate
£1,500,000 - 2,000,000 

Sold for £1,716,500

Contact Specialist

Kate Bryan
Specialist, Head of Evening Sale
+44 20 7318 4026
[email protected]

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

London Auction 20 October 2020