Browse Lots

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
Keith Haring (1958-1990)
PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED EUROPEAN COLLECTION
Keith Haring (1958-1990)

Untitled

Details
Keith Haring (1958-1990)
Untitled
signed and dated 'K. Haring MAY 1988' (on the overlap)
acrylic on canvas
48 x 36in. (122 x 91.5cm.)
Painted in 1988
Provenance
Skarstedt Gallery, New York.
R. Smith Collection.
Vedovi Gallery, Brussels.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2004.
Literature
G. Celant (ed.), Keith Haring, Munich 1992, p. 198, no. 120 (illustrated in colour, p. 149).
Exhibited
Paris, Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Keith Haring, the Political Line, 2013, p. 313, no. 195 (illustrated in colour, p. 286).

Brought to you by

Katharine Arnold
Katharine Arnold

Lot Essay

‘Keith went naked into the world as the perfect boy-child of the electronic age. Like the youthful Rimbaud, he too will be acknowledged as a prophetic figure and one of the most endearing young oracles of the chaotic modern age, opening the way for a new utopic era of fraternal feeling and self-realization’ —T. SHAFRAZI

‘It is as though his pulsating images have already danced their way into the atavistic chambers of the collective mind, as if his characters are now somehow imprinted on ribbons of DNA to be transmitted genetically to future generations’ —B. BLINDERMAN

‘See, when I paint, it is an experience that, at its best, is transcending reality. When it is working, you completely go into another place, you’re tapping into things that are totally universal, of the total consciousness, completely beyond your ego and your own self. That’s what it’s all about’ —K. HARING


Executed in 1988, Untitled exemplifies the iconic graphic language that Keith Haring cultivated at the height of New York’s hip-hop heyday. Infused with overtones of graffiti and cartoon imagery, science fiction and mythology, the work exudes the raw, euphoric energy that came to define his dynamic urban practice. Like his contemporary Jean-Michel Basquiat, who began life as an unknown street artist, Haring’s work first rose to prominence on New York’s billboards and subways. In the blank spaces awaiting new advertisements, his pictorial universe came to life in chalk, populated by babies, barking dogs, angels, cartoon people and spaceships. The faceless figure, animated by Haring’s signature motion lines, sprung up throughout the city: an avatar both primitive and futuristic. As time went on, the artist’s biomorphic beings were transferred to canvas, spawning a network of mutant creatures that seemed to propose a new, psychedelic reality. Tragically, neither Haring nor Basquiat would live to see the following decade unfold: Basquiat’s death in 1988 – the year of the present work – was prefigured by his prophetic painting Riding with Death, whilst Haring lost his battle with AIDS just two years later. Writing shortly afterwards, Barry Blinderman claimed ‘It is as though his pulsating images have already danced their way into the atavistic chambers of the collective mind, as if his characters are now somehow imprinted on ribbons of DNA to be transmitted genetically to future generations’ (B. Blinderman, ‘And We All Shine On’, in G. Celant (ed.), Keith Haring, Munich 1992, p. 27).

Painting, for Haring, was an activity that allowed him to envision new states of being: to go beyond the banality of everyday life. ‘See, when I paint, it is an experience that, at its best, is transcending reality’, he explained. ‘When it is working, you completely go into another place, you’re tapping into things that are totally universal, of the total consciousness, completely beyond your ego and your own self. That’s what it’s all about’ (K. Haring, quoted in D. Sheff, ‘Keith Haring: An Intimate Conversation,’ in Rolling Stone, August 1989). In his complex network of codes, motifs and signifiers, Haring sought a global language: ‘a more holistic and basic idea of wanting to incorporate [art] into every part of life, less as an egotistical exercise and more natural somehow. I don’t know how to exactly explain it. Taking it off the pedestal. I’m giving it back to the people, I guess’ (K. Haring, quoted in D. Drenger, ‘Art and Life: An Interview with Keith Haring,’ in Columbia Art Review, Spring 1988, p. 53). His legacy ultimately brought this desire to fruition. As Blinderman writes, ‘Adolescents in Japan draw Haringese on subway station walls. Haring imagery turns up in clothing shops in Australia, on “help the homeless” signs posted at Orly airpoit, in greeting card stores in San Francisco, on chopstick wrappers at a Manhattan restaurant’ (B. Blinderman, ‘And We All Shine On’, in G. Celant (ed.), Keith Haring, Munich 1992, pp. 27-28). With its blazing primary hues and rhythmic vitality, the present work is powerful symbol of an artist who visualised a new utopia amidst the grit and grime of the city streets.

More from Post War & Contemporary Art Evening Auction

View All
View All