- Keith Haring
- signed and dated May 85 on the reverse
- acrylic on canvas with metal grommets
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
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
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.