KEITH HARING (1958-1990)
KEITH HARING (1958-1990)
KEITH HARING (1958-1990)
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KEITH HARING (1958-1990)


KEITH HARING (1958-1990)
signed, inscribed and dated 'K.Haring JUN 9 - 1984 MILANO' (on the overlap)
acrylic on canvas
39 3⁄8 x 39 3⁄8in. (100 x 100cm.)
Painted in 1984
Galleria Salvatore Ala, Milan.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1992.
A. Galasso (ed.), Keith Haring a Milano, Milan 2005, p. 81 (illustrated in colour, pp. 49 and 81; installation view at Galleria Salvatore Ala in 1984 illustrated in colour, p. 106, incorrectly titled).
Milan, Galleria Salvatore Ala, Keith Haring, 1984.
Reggio Emilia, Fondazione Palazzo Magnani, L’Arte Inquieta, L’urgenza della creazione, 2022-2023, p. 182 (illustrated in colour, p. 183).

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Lot Essay

Keith Haring’s Untitled (1984) is a raucous ode to humanity. The painting was created for and exhibited at the artist’s triumphant 1984 solo debut in Milan at the esteemed Galleria Salvatore Ala. Thrumming with life, the twirling, dancing figures stream across the canvas; the choreographed euphoria in combination with the architectural forms conjure a throbbing dance club, likely inspired by Haring’s own nighttime excursions in the Italian city. The painting teems with music and vivacity. It was acquired directly from the gallery and has been held in the same private collection for more than thirty years since.

Salvatore Ala first met Haring in New York in the beginning of the 1980s: finding himself captivated by the drawings that lined the city’s subway tunnels, Ala set out to meet the young artist behind these ephemeral images. Following their introduction, Ala included Haring in a group exhibition in 1983 at his eponymous gallery in Milan—showing his art alongside that of Kenny Scharf, Ronnie Cutrone, and James Brown—before proposing a solo presentation for the following year.

Arriving in Milan at age twenty-six, Haring decided to create an entirely new body of work inspired by the culture and nightlife he encountered. This was typical of Haring: whether off traveling or at home in New York, he was accustomed to producing art that responded both visually and materially to a location’s particularities. Reflecting later on his time in the Italian city, Haring said, ‘When you are visiting a country to work, instead of as a tourist, you experience it in a richer, more authentic way. This was particularly true in Milano’ (K. Haring, quoted in ‘Some Excerpts From Keith Haring’s Journals’, in A. Galasso (ed.), Keith Haring A Milano, Milan 2005, p. 11). During the weeks he spent in the city, Haring visited workshops that produced terracotta vases; spent time in paint shops and with carpenters; and, despite his almost non-existent Italian, made many friends. All of this would find its way into the canvases and sculptures he created for the exhibition.

Instead of cloistering himself in a studio to paint and sculpt, Haring elected to work at the gallery, fuelling himself on booming music, garlicky pizza and cold cans of Coca-Cola that Ala brought over late at night. Friends and strangers alike gravitated to the space to watch the young phenom with his brush. Roy Lichtenstein, who happened to be in Milan in the days leading up to the show’s opening, joined the throng: ‘I stopped by the gallery a couple of days before the opening, and there was Keith creating his show right there, on the spot! … It was extraordinary!’ (R. Lichtenstein quoted in ‘Memories’, The Keith Haring Foundation, accessed on 11 January 2024). When he finally put down his paints, hands sore from holding a brush, Haring and his pals would head to the legendary nightclub Plastic, where he quickly befriended the DJ, Nicola Guiducci. ‘Plastic,’ said Haring, ‘is my favourite club in Europe. Nicola plays music that made me feel like I was in New York’ (K. Haring quoted op. cit., 2005, p. 29). These were thrilling years for an artist whose star had risen meteorically, but despite Haring’s ascension, this open, community-oriented ethos, first homed back in Manhattan, would continue to characterise his art.

The paintings produced in Milan, including Untitled, were among the first Haring created with acrylic paint, a material that offered the artist more chromatic possibility than the vinyl he had previously used. Characteristic of the artist’s unique and instantly recognisable idiom, these works pulse with biomorphic forms, twisting chimeras, and the rhythm of the world the artist was inhabiting. Although constructed at great speed, and often in one go—a method that emerged from his roots as a a graffiti artist working in fear of New York’s police—Haring’s compositions were far from haphazard. This gestural immediacy animates the present work: its whirling forms and bold, neon colours conjure an exhilarating sense of life.

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