Lot 68
  • 68

Keith Haring

1,500,000 - 2,000,000 USD
3,749,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Keith Haring
  • Untitled
  • signed and dated May 85 on the reverse
  • acrylic on canvas with metal grommets


Estate of the Artist
Van de Weghe Fine Art, New York (acquired from the above)
Private Collection, Europe
Sotheby's, New York, November 9, 2010, Lot 45
Acquired by the present owner from the above


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. 116, p. 193, illustrated in color (incorrectly dated 1988)
Milan, Fondazione Triennale di Milano, The Keith Haring Show, September 2005 - January 2006, cat. no. 104, p. 258, illustrated in color
Paris, Musée d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris, Keith Haring, The Political Line, April - August 2013, cat. no. 175, p. 152, illustrated in color


Germano Celant, ed., Keith Haring, Munich, 1992, pl. 93, illustrated in color

Catalogue Note

Inducing the impression of a contemporary hieroglyphic cave painting in its vigorous immediacy and exceptionally poised economy of form, Keith Haring’s colossal Untitled from 1985 energetically signals a formative moment in the radiant child’s career, and invokes the unrivaled creative dynamism of New York City’s fertile streets at the pinnacle of the 1980s. The present work possesses a graphic symmetry and kinetic gestural motion exemplary of Haring’s most beloved compositions, employing Haring’s instantly recognizable, culturally pervasive pictorial language of bold contoured lines and boisterously mobile stick figures. Four arms extend from the corners of the canvas, pinching the arms and legs of the central figure and pulling him in all directions. Marked by an arresting red X at the center of his torso, the figure’s limbs are stretched elastically to the point of snapping—a palpable tension that Haring powerfully conveys through animated lines emanating from the numerous points of pressure. The red-cross figure at the center of the canvas reappears in Haring’s quintessential social advocacy graphics, from his anti-apartheid “Free South Africa” poster to the epochal “Act Up” AIDS activism images that are seared into the communal memory—one of the most potent symbols of Haring’s unrelenting public iconicity.

Untitled epitomizes Haring’s inimitable aptitude for conveying pulsating movement through forms distilled to their most basic, essential components. Haring’s confident hand draws bold, self-assured strokes, eschewing a pre-meditated schematic plan for spontaneous genius; never erasing or reworking, Haring’s virtuosic gestural ingenuity flows directly through his brush onto the canvas. Executed in 1985, the present work emerges at the zenith of Haring’s career and the electric downtown East Village art scene of the 1980s, which Haring trailblazed alongside his contemporaries Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kenny Scharf. Following the underground subway chalk drawings that catalyzed Haring’s public rise to prominence, and prior to his opening the now canonical Pop Shop at 676 Broadway in 1986, 1985 was a year that saw Haring experience his first taste of critical recognition to complement his already extensive commercial celebrity. In the same year that Haring painted Untitled, he was the subject of two concurrent solo exhibitions—his paintings were shown at Tony Shafrazi Gallery and an exhibition of new sculptures debuted at Leo Castelli Gallery on Greene Street. It was at this time that Haring really stretched his inventive artistic muscles, beginning to paint on canvas for the first time, and making forays into large-scale sculpture. 

The year 1985 also saw the tragic development of the AIDS epidemic in New York, a crisis that ravaged Haring’s community. “By this time—1985—things have seriously changed in New York, and in my life, because the horror of AIDS had come to light. It totally changed people’s lives.” (the artist cited in John Gruen, Keith Haring: The Authorized Biography, New York, 1991, pp. 131-132) Even in the face of AIDS, a disease to which Haring himself succumbed tragically in 1990, the present work retains the artist’s distinct positive energy; rather than devolving into injury, misery, anxiety, or death, Untitled illustrates Haring’s unique appreciation of human relationships and intense, receptive embrace of all walks of life. As Henry Geldzahler observed, “It was in the face of this tragic dimension that Keith’s generosity and love of his audience was played out, above all in the spontaneity and high energy of his work right up to the end; Keith produced a tuneful art that sets us humming.” (Henry Geldzahler cited in Exh. Cat., St. Louis, Philip Samuels Fine Art, Keith Haring, 1990) Untitled from 1985 embodies the exhilarating energy that pervades Haring’s most popular imagery while reflecting the artist’s stride toward serious critical gravitas.