Keith Haring, ‘Untitled’, 1984, Phillips

This work is accompanied by a letter from Jenny Holzer confirming the provenance of this artwork.

From the Catalogue:
Originally created as a gift for artist Jenny Holzer, the present lot by Keith Haring from 1984 features the artist’s characteristic iconography in a frenzied composition that reflects the political uncertainties of the 1980s. The work was made immediately following Haring’s collaboration with Holzer on her project Sign on a Truck, a compilation of interviews conducted by Holzer in New York in the lead up to the 1984 presidential election. Haring identified with the sentiments explored in this video project and had been admiring Holzer’s practice since his last year at the School of Visual Arts in 1979, particularly when she put together The Manifest Show in 1980, featuring politically conscious works with image and text expressing various viewpoints. In Sign on a Truck, Holzer utilized new technologies to project live-camera interviews on a mobile screen on wheels, interspersed with visual, graphic and audio statements by artists including Haring and some of his most well-known contemporaries.

In response to this project, Haring created the present lot, illustrating a politically charged narrative. The leftmost figure represents Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan, or more symbolically, the Reagan administration; he is depicted with four outstretched arms and a television for a head, towering over a crouching figure in the center. The rightmost figure covers his eyes and appears to be running away in fear, resisting the notoriously effective television advertising from Reagan’s campaign, characterized by Haring’s chosen symbols of a money sign, crucifix and nuclear energy. To make clear this narrative, Haring uses text to spell out “REAGAN” in the upper right corner, perhaps inspired by Holzer’s use of text in many of her works, including Sign on a Truck. The scene is rendered in black ink atop a vividly fluorescent orange paper, enclosed in a hand-drawn smaller box, possibly meant to symbolize the mobile screen from Holzer’s project. As such, the present lot is a personal interpretation of Haring’s own reflection on a meaningful time in his career collaborating with Holzer, rendered in an aesthetic vibrancy that remains true to his unique visual practice.
Courtesy of Phillips

Signature: signed and dated "K. Haring '84" lower right

Jenny Holzer (gifted by the artist)
Private Collection (acquired from the above)

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