Lot 278
  • 278

Keith Haring

300,000 - 400,000 GBP
Log in to view results
bidding is closed


  • Keith Haring
  • The Acrobats
  • signed, dated 86 and numbered 3/5

  • painted aluminum
  • height: 246cm.; 97in.
  • Executed in 1986, this work is number 3 from an edition of 5.


Estate of Keith Haring
Private Collection, USA


New York, Doris C. Freedman Plaza, Keith Haring on Park Avenue, 1997
Luxembourg, Heintz Park, Luxembourg European Capital of Culture for 2007, 2007


Exhibition Catalogue, London, Ben Brown Fine Arts, Keith Haring, 2005, p. 54, another example illustrated in colour


Colours: The colours are fairly accurate in the catalogue illustration, although the overall tonality is brighter and warmer in the original. Condition: This work is in very good condition. There are a few small scratches and rub marks, some with associated spots of paint loss. These are mostly found on the edges of the figures' arms and feet and to the edge of the base, and are only visible upon close inspection. Close inspection also reveals some light surface dirt adhering to the area where the two heads join. There are light handling marks in places throughout and an unobtrusive line above the signature on the base, original to the work's execution. There is a small area of retouching to one of the scratches on the foot of the orange acrobat.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

"A painting, to a degree, is still an illusion of a material. But once you cut this thing out of steel and put it up, it is a real thing.... It has a kind of power that a painting doesn't have. You can't burn it, it would survive a nuclear blast probably. It has this permanent, real feeling that will exist much, much longer than I will ever exist, so it's a kind of immortality. All of it I guess, to a degree, is like that...." (Keith Haring quoted in Germano Celant, Keith Haring, Munich 1997, p. 22)

Keith Haring's short career was both astonishingly versatile and truly ground-breaking. Having emerged as an artist on the streets and subways of New York at the start of the 1980's, Haring quickly made a name for himself as a natural draughtsman and visual urban poet through the subway drawings: simple, humorous and arresting chalk images on black paper pasted up alongside the ubiquitous advertising posters on the New York underground. These posters also allowed him an outlet for self-expression by doctoring the images and attaching false headlines; subvertising as it became known. Having developed his own socially conscious and pop culture-inspired iconography over the following years through murals, paintings, graffiti and design, Haring announced himself as a sculptor of staggering ability on October 26th 1985 at an exhibition of his sculptural works at Leo Castelli's Green Street Gallery in New York. This latest development came as a fundamental step forward for Haring's own personal sense of his career and the visual development of his inimitable style. Cut from steel and lacquered in bright colours, these pieces were intentionally designed for public interaction to the extent that Haring smoothed off the edges, painted them in the colours of children's toys and encouraged their installation in public spaces. This populism is echoed in the simplicity of his technique and the purity of line that he so admired in the works of artists such as Alexander Calder and Pierre Alechinsky. By keeping the image structurally refined these works are lent a totemic yet lyric delicacy that is remarkably balanced and instantly recognisable on both the conscious and experiential level.

This is typical of the artist's desire to integrate art into the community, to touch people's lives with both his passion for the work and the socially activist message inherent in his articulate and compelling technique. In this aspect of his work it is possible to see Keith Haring attempting to create a memorial for posterity out the MTV inspired culture of the day. He displayed a deep desire to make sense of a turbulent period in the history of America's attempts to come to terms with divisive issues such as the Civil Rights movement, homosexuality and AIDS and to link his own oeuvre to that goal. More than anything, sculpture gave him the wherewithal to make the attempt.