Keith Haring, ‘Untitled’, 1983, Phillips

From the Catalogue:
The present two lots are beautiful examples of Keith Haring’s genius and dexterity as an artist. The early 1980s are the most sought after years of Keith Haring’s tragically short and intense career. Starting at an early age when his father made him sketches of characters from comic strips through his graffiti days in the New York subway, Haring invented his own alphabet of contemporary artistic language. Under the influence of Andy Warhol and contemporary to Jean-Michel Basquiat, Haring believed that art was a product of the individual and the ultimate expression of individuality. He chose the public realm for his art out of curiosity and an embrace of his temperament as well as his generosity. Enjoying success at a very young age, his philosophy was an idea of universal art strongly influenced by the aesthetics of decoration and eighties post-modernism.

The early 1980s were a heady time in New York, and particularly within the specific artistic milieu with which Haring ran. By 1983, Haring had had his first exhibition, his coming out of sorts within the New York art world, at Tony Shafrazi Gallery the year prior, and his exhibition in February of 1983 at Fun Gallery with LA II would firmly establish his place among the pantheon of the scene. “Fun Gallery was the epicenter of this new scene. Opening nights spilled into the streets, as the graffiti kids tried to figure out how their art could move from the walls of the city to the walls of the gallery. From the beginning, Keith Haring was one to watch. He was respected below ground and up above.” (Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, “An Afternoon with Keith”, The Keith Haring Show, exh. cat., Fondazione Triennale di Milano, 2005, p. 111) Completely covering the walls, the two installed an exhibition of a variety of material and objects. These two particular works, executed on calf hides, were installed – one directly on the wall (Lot 145), and the other on the door to Fun Gallery’s office (Lot 146). Employing his trademark style and graphic line, Haring adorned and imbued these hides with his frenetic energy and iconography. Taking his almost tribal line directly to this very ancient support of hide, Haring brought the ancient, the mythic, the Dionysian into the mania of 1980s New York.

Haring’s art has always been so powerful because it has an ability to embody so many meanings and to be relevant for so many people. Grounded in art historical tradition from Legér and Dubuffet to Egyptian and aboriginal hieroglyphs and petroglyphs, Haring’s art also encapsulated the immediacy and directness of the man himself and the times in which he came of age. One need not have any artistic schooling to realize that Haring exemplified that singularly unifying trait of all artists, to share something with the rest of humanity. Melding high and low, destroying barriers between public and private, the elite strata of the art world and the grittiness of his East Village locale, Haring and works such as these two Untitled paintings serve now as particular talismans from an age gone by, but forever relevant.
Courtesy of Phillips

Signature: signed and dated "K. Haring JAN. 26 1983" on the reverse

New York, Fun Gallery, Keith Haring, February 3 - 27, 1983

Private Collection, New York (acquired directly from the artist)
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1989

About Keith Haring

Bridging the gap between the art world and the street, Keith Haring rose to prominence in the early 1980s with his graffiti drawings made in the subways and on the sidewalks of New York City. Combining the appeal of cartoons with the raw energy of Art Brut artists like Jean DuBuffet, Haring developed a distinct pop-graffiti aesthetic centered on fluid, bold outlines against a dense, rhythmic overspread of imagery like that of babies, barking dogs, flying saucers, hearts, and Mickey Mouse. In his subway drawings and murals, Haring explored themes of exploitation, subjugation, drug abuse, and rising fears of nuclear holocaust, which became increasingly apocalyptic after his AIDS diagnosis. Alongside Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kenny Scharf, and Jenny Holzer, Haring is regarded as a leading figure in New York East Village Art scene in the 1970s and '80s.

American, 1958-1990, Reading, Pennsylvania, based in New York, New York