Keith Haring, ‘Untitled’, 1983, Phillips

Property of an Important Asian Collector

Executed on 25 February 1983.

From the Catalogue:
A Japanese sumi ink and gouache work on paper, Untitled is an original artwork by the legendary Keith Haring, an artist who notoriously bridged the gap between the art world and the streets having garnered critical attention with a series of drawings in the New York subway in the 1980s. The present lot, signed by the artist while he was in Tokyo, features bold fluorescent green outlines encasing a dense map of neon red forms alluding to a unique syntax of signs. A close examination of the work reveals the individual strokes of ink and paint allowing the viewer to trace Haring’s deliberate, impeccably precise movements across the composition, which is starkly contrasted against the negative white space of the paper. Characterized by a hybrid of imagery and writing akin to the language systems of the ancients, the markings comprising Untitled were inspired by Egyptian hieroglyphics and Japanese, Chinese and Mayan pictograms.

The present lot demonstrates how the role of drawing in Keith Haring’s oeuvre reverses the traditional critical interest in this media. Throughout art history, works on paper have followed in the footsteps of more 'serious' genres like painting or sculpture. As a more immediate and spontaneous art form, however, drawing has the ability to unmask aspects of the artist’s hand in its purest most unadulterated form. Haring perceived his artistic process as 'an experience that at its best allowed him to transcend reality, to go somewhere else, completely outside his own ego and self. This was a radically different experience from the one that lay behind the culture of the tag, which entailed a monotonous affirmation of the writer’s ego, traced in clearly visible letters in every corner of the metropolis' (Gianni Mercurio, The Keith Haring Show, 2005, p. 19).

Though he is very often associated with the counter-cultural ideals and lifestyles of the Beat generation graffiti artists who arrived on the New York scene at the beginning of the seventies, Keith Haring firmly believed that 'art always was and always will be the product of the individual […] No artists are part of a movement, unless they are followers […] As soon as they declare themselves followers or accept the truths they have not explored as truths, they are defeating the purpose of art as an individual expression—Art as Art' (Haring, Journals, October 1978, p. 11). Alongside Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kenny Scharf and Jenny Holzer, Haring is regarded as a leading figure from the New York East Village Art scene in the 1970s and ‘80s—Untitled being an exemplary original work from which subsequent editions were created.
Courtesy of Phillips

Signature: signed, inscribed and dated 'K. Haring FEB.25-83 TOKYO' on the reverse

Tokyo, Galerie Watari, Keith Haring, 8 March - 8 April 1983

Galerie Watari, Tokyo
Private Collection, Tokyo
Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo
Acquired from the above by the present owner

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