Keith Haring - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Wednesday, October 2, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Tony Shafrazi Gallery, New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1982

  • Exhibited

    New York, Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Keith Haring, 9 October - 13 November 1982

  • Catalogue Essay

    '1982 to 1984 was the peak of rap music and break-dancing, breaking and spinning on the floor and doing these athletic, gymnastic dances on the floor. It included spray graffiti because there was a graffiti scene. Part of the hip-hop scene at the time was the visual equivalent, so you had the music—which was scratching and rapping—and the dance, from break-dancing to electric boogie…. Graffiti was the visual tie-in. […] A lot of my inspiration was coming out of watching break-dancers, so my drawings started spinning on their heads and twisting and turning all around' Keith Haring

    Executed in 1982, Untitled belongs to the crucial pivotal moment in Keith Haring’s highly prolific artistic career. Intensely colourful and immediately captivating, the work was exhibited in Haring’s now legendary debut solo show at Tony Shafrazi Gallery in New York, 1982, which also included drawings, painted tarpaulins, sculptures and site specific work. Haring transformed Shafrazi’s space into a club-like environment inspired by the New York hip-hop scene which he admired. Kim Hastreiter, friend and co-founder of PAPER magazine, reminisced that the opening ‘drew close to a thousand people and spilled out onto the streets for hours…He spent the entire time doodling on people’s T-shirts, books, papers, anything that anyone put in front of him…After that day, the world changed for Keith’ (Kim Hastreiter, ‘Funny How Things Turn Out’, Gianni Mercurio and Julia Gruen, The Keith Haring Show, 2006, p. 105). Arriving in New York in 1978, Haring had thrown himself into the underground art scene and met his contemporaries Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kenny Scharf and Andy Warhol. Alongside his famous inner-circle, Haring often frequented the legendary Club 57, an experimental night club where artists gathered, exhibited and collaborated. Placed in this important historical context, Untitled perfectly encapsulates Haring’s radical fusing of high and low art, transforming the city streets into galleries and galleries into night clubs.

    Inspired by the city’s street art and determined to make his work accessible to a wider audience, Haring drew over five thousand chalk drawings on blank advertising spaces in New York subway stations between 1980 - 1985. During these underground excursions Haring created his now instantly recognisable symbols and repeating motifs. Easily accessible, bold and graphic, Haring was influenced by graffiti ‘tags’ throughout the city, used to identify underground street artists. These figures quickly became notorious and the significance of Haring’s work was recognised as early as 1981 owing to art critic Rene Ricard’s seminal article ‘The Radiant Child’, which identified Haring and Basquiat as the defining artists for the popular graffiti style. Haring’s ‘barking dog’ and ‘radiant baby’ continued the legacy of Basquiat’s ‘crown’ graffiti tag of the 1970s. Whilst Haring’s subway drawings were monochromatic, Untitled is a pure celebration of colour. Haring applied fluorescent Day-Glo paint directly onto a shelf-like found object supporting an electric blue tube light, creating a work that is both painterly and sculptural. Reducing his forms to the most basic components, evoking child-like drawings and archaic cave paintings, the rich and contrasting tones of neon green, red, orange and deep blue radiate from the wall upon which it is hung. Significantly, 1982 marked Haring’s first major public mural on the corner of Houston Street and Bowery.

    Featuring his iconic ‘three eyed monster’ and dancing figures in bold lines and vibrant colours, the mural was centrally located in the emerging downtown art scene on the direct walking route between SoHo and the Lower East Side. The popularity of this piece helped further Haring’s reputation as well as immortalizing the wall as a downtown landmark. Combined with his hugely successful and highly acclaimed solo show, 1982 was a breakthrough moment for Haring. The obvious visual parallels between the more intimate Untitled and the vast public mural demonstrates Haring’s whole-hearted dedication to the graffiti-art aesthetic as a language that transcends and destroys the boundaries between the international art world and the street.

    Haring’s joyful yet subversive spirit has consistently drawn an international audience to his work. His first major United Kingdom retrospective is currently on show at the Tate Liverpool, testifying to his importance in contemporary culture nearly 30 years after his life was tragically cut short. Like his enduring appeal, the energetic force of the present work shines on, long after it came off the decorated walls of Shafrazi’s gallery surrounded by blasting music. Untitled is not only a celebration of the artist’s radical visual language, but it is also a testament to Haring’s unique character which granted him a mythical status amongst the contemporary art scene of the 1980s and beyond.

  • 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. 

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signed, signed with the artist's symbol and dated 'K. Haring OCT. 8 ⊕ 1982' on the reverse; further signed with the artist's symbol '⊕' lower left; further dated '1982' lower right
Day-glo paint and ink on found object with blue lamp
58.5 x 92.4 x 34 cm (23 x 36 3/8 x 13 3/8 in.)
Executed in 1982, this work is accompanied by a letter of authenticity from The Estate of Keith Haring and is registered under the identification number 061208A15.

£200,000 - 300,000 

Sold for £325,000

Contact Specialist

Tamila Kerimova
Director, Specialist
Head of Day Sale
+44 20 7318 4065

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 3 October 2019