Lot 19
  • 19

Keith Haring

2,000,000 - 3,000,000 USD
4,869,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Keith Haring
  • Untitled (September 14, 1986)
  • signed, titled and dated Sept. 14 1986 on the reverse
  • acrylic and enamel paint on canvas with metal grommets


Estate of the Artist
Deitch Projects, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1999


Turin, Castello di Rivoli, Museo d'arte contemporanea; Malmö, Malmö Konsthall; Hamburg, Deichtorhallen; Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Keith Haring, February 1994 - February 1995, cat. no. 101, pp. 170-171, illustrated
New York, MoMA PS1, Around 1984: A Look at Art in the Eighties, May - September 2000
Karlsruhe, Museum für Neue Kunst; Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Keith Haring: Heaven and Hell, September 2001 - July 2002, cat. no. 24, pp. 108-109, illustrated in color
Milan, Fondazione Triennale di Milano, The Keith Haring Show, September 2005 - January 2006, pl. 73, p. 230, illustrated in color
Miami, The Sender Collection, Home Alone, November - December 2011
Paris, Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Keith Haring, The Political Line, April - August 2013, cat. no. 178, pp. 264-265, illustrated in color


Germano Celant, ed., Keith Haring, Munich, 1992, pl. 101, illustrated
Exh. Cat., New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Keith Haring, 1997, pp. 200-201, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

Epic in scope and impressive in scale, Untitled (September 14, 1986) was created at the peak of Keith Haring’s tragically short but intensely dynamic career. Depicting a fantastical scene of apocalyptic magnitude, the frenzied composition of Untitled (September 14, 1986) is dominated by a central headless figure that writhes amidst a chaotic background of mythical creatures and humanoid forms that are seemingly engaged in conflict with each other. Recalling the paintings of the sixteenth-century Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch in its amalgamation of the monstrous with the bizarre, Untitled (September 14, 1986) presents an immensely powerful dystopian vision in which normality has been totally suspended in favor of an utterly surreal tableau. Half-human beasts appear to devour each other with abandon, whilst two snake-like creatures rear their heads towards the central figure, rendered like figments of a nightmare by the substitution of a weeping eye and a staring face in place of the head of each snake. Executed in a strikingly pared-down palette, the graphic iconicity and intricate tessellation of Untitled (September 14, 1986) reinforces the power of the scene, with the chaotic melee appearing close to bursting beyond the composition. The struggle depicted seems almost biblical in scale, with the central figure attempting to blindly forge his way through the commotion around him to invoke the oft-painted biblical tale of the temptation of St. Anthony.

The present work recalls Haring’s earliest graffiti compositions in its monumental scale and delineation of white motifs against a dark background, yet in its emotional intensity and compositional complexity Untitled (September 14, 1986) has progressed far beyond the artist’s works of the first half of the 1980s, indicating a new aesthetic maturity and creative profundity that signify the work of an artist at the apex of his powers. The importance of Haring’s work had been recognized as early as 1981 when René Ricard published his seminal essay on the New York art scene, significantly entitled "Radiant Child" after Haring’s iconic illustration of the same name, which had adorned an electronic Times Square billboard during the previous year. One of the most celebrated artists working in New York during the 1980s, Haring tapped into the zeitgeist of this vibrant decade: a period in which music and art flourished within a culture of conspicuous consumption, yet which was also overshadowed by the horrors of AIDS and drug abuse.

Arriving in the city in 1978, Haring was immediately drawn to the urban music and graffiti scene, working alongside other artists who were also to become legends of their time, such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kenny Scharf. Haring first gained renown by leaving his often ephemeral yet powerful mark on the walls and advertising boards of the city’s labyrinthine subway system. The artist recalled the impact that Basquiat’s early graffiti – completed under the moniker of ‘SAMO’ – had on his own work: “There was this art out on the streets. Before I knew who he was, I became obsessed with Jean-Michel Basquiat’s work… The stuff I saw on the walls was more poetry than graffiti… On the surface they seemed really simple, but the minute I saw them I knew they were more than that. From the beginning he was my favorite artist.” (the artist in conversation with David Sheff in "Keith Haring, An Intimate Conversation," Rolling Stone, August 1989, n.p.) Music and the urban culture surrounding it proved to be another major source of inspiration for the artist: “All kinds of new things were starting. In music, it was the punk and New Wave scenes… And there was the club scene – the Mudd Club and Club 57, at St. Mark’s Place, in the basement of a Polish church, which became our hangout, a clubhouse, where we could do whatever we wanted.” (the artist cited in Ibid.) The extraordinary sensation of movement that pervades Untitled (September 14, 1986) and other large scale examples of Haring’s work can be connected to the artist’s understanding and love of this alternative and highly original music scene at the time.

In its astonishingly assured compositional structure and astounding level of detail, Untitled (September 14, 1986) deserves to be considered as a work of immense significance within Haring’s oeuvre, embodying the dizzying energy and sense of possibility that existed within the New York cultural scene for a brief but heady period during the 1980s. Ultimately, Untitled (September 14, 1986) superbly encapsulates the sensation that Haring declared he was striving for within his art when he stated, “When I paint, it is an experience that, at its best, is transcending reality.” (the artist cited in Ibid.)  In its creation of a powerfully distinctive dreamscape, Untitled (September 14, 1986) not only ‘transcends’ reality, but exceeds it as well.