Lot 22
  • 22

Keith Haring

3,000,000 - 4,000,000 USD
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  • Keith Haring
  • Untitled (Dancing Dogs)
  • signed
  • sumi ink and acrylic on paper mounted on canvas
  • 108 x 191 1/2 in. 274.3 x 486.4 cm.
  • Executed in 1981.


Estate of the Artist
Jeffrey Deitch, Inc., New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 2001


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. 22, pp. 72-73, illustrated in color
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Keith Haring, June - September 1997, pp. 162-163, illustrated in color
Milan, Fondazione Triennale di Milano, The Keith Haring Show, September 2005 - January 2006, pl. 163, pp. 318-319, illustrated in color
Paris, Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Keith Haring, the Political Line, April - August 2013, cat. no. 61, pp. 126-127, illustrated in color


This work is in excellent condition. The paper ground is mounted to canvas and exhibits slightly irregular hand-cut edges, particularly on the left where the diagonal paper edge reveals up to 3" of canvas on the face of the work. There is some scattered vertical soiling and handling marks in this area. The overall surface of the design is well preserved and remarkably free of soiling from handling, other than one or two minor spots. Scattered along the edges, the following conditions are to be noted, many of which may be associated with the execution and mounting of a work of paper of this scale: - Abraded surfaces can be noted at the center left edge, 9 ½" in length and extending to 1 ¼" in width== below the center at the right edge, 4" in length and extending in 1"==a 3" wide area at the center of the bottom edge. - At the corners are various repaired losses and tears: upper left shows an area of paper fill to remedy losses reaching in 4" from the left edge and 2 ½" down from the top of the sheet==upper right, there is an area of paper fill reaching 5" down from the top edge and extending in 2 ½" from the right== bottom right, various repaired tears and small losses, primarily a 6 ½" horizontal tear originating 3 ½" up from the corner==bottom left, a scattered network of repaired tears and small paper losses - Minor tears can be seen at the left edge 46" up from the bottom. - Soft horizontal creases are scattered intermittently around the edges as a result of the mounting process, and there are intermittent pinhead sized holes at the extreme left and right hand edges, dating from the time of execution. - There is a small area of discoloration, possibly soiling, to the right most edge at the center, and a very small hairline tear at the center of the right edge extending 2" in from the edge. The work is framed in a metal strip frame with a 1" float, painted black.
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.

Catalogue Note

Incorporating on a colossal scale Haring’s most iconic, culturally recognizable, and desirable iconographic figures—the dancing dog, the radiant baby, and the X-branded stick figures—within the same composition, Untitled (Dancing Dogs) from 1981 represents an early, definitive summary of Haring’s pictorial lexicon. Included in the most important Keith Haring retrospective exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York in 1997, the present work is a spectacular example of Haring’s optically ravishing yet critically laudatory paintings. Keith Haring is a complex and compelling icon of 1980s Pop art, profoundly colliding the spheres of art and life through an economy of aesthetic means previously untrodden. Tony Shafrazi extolled, “Keith went naked into the world as the perfect boy-child of the electronic age. Like the youthful Rimbaud, he too will be acknowledged as a prophetic figure and one of the most endearing young oracles of the chaotic modern age, opening the way for a new utopic era of fraternal feeling and self-realization. He bravely chose to depict and resolve both destructive and constructive forces in society and art. These are the solutions we all dream of in fancy, but for Keith they were actual and attainable, through his art.” (Tony Shafrazi cited in Exh. Cat., New York, Shafrazi Gallery, Keith Haring, May 1990)

Haring’s larger than life dancing dog figures bark at each other and proceed across the canvas from right to left, resembling contemporary re-imaginations of the half-human half-jackal Egyptian deity Anubis, and formally emulating the ancient iconography that depicted figures within narratives as two-dimensionally flattened and walking linearly in side profile. The vibrant painting is notable for its exceptionally sumptuous drips, as cascades of fluid ink and acrylic pour down and across the surface. While Haring here deploys similar forms as in his formative subway chalk drawings, the expressive joie de vivre of the drips juxtaposed with the hard-edged lines of his archetypal bold shapes exemplify Haring’s mastery over the painterly medium, bridging his Pop language with the critical gravitas of Abstract Expressionism. Just as we can visualize Pollock vigorously taking paint to canvas, exuding his heroic genius with every gestural drip and pour, Untitled (Dancing Dogs) analogously conjures Haring’s performance of painting—the ineluctable motion of the image parallels Haring’s own instinctive, primal dance with brush and canvas. 

For Roy Lichtenstein, Pop art's master of color, painterly control and penetrating intelligence, Haring’s paintings were deserving of the highest praise: “Keith composes in an amazing way. I mean, it’s as if he dashes the painting off—which in a way he does—but it takes enormous control, ability, talent, and skill to make works that become whole paintings. They’re not just arbitrary writings. He really has a terrific eye! And he doesn’t go back and correct—this is in itself amazing—and his compositions are of a very high level. And he has such wit!” (Roy Lichtenstein quoted in John Gruen, Keith Haring: The Authorized Biography, 1992, p. 124)