Lot 1043
  • 1043

Keith Haring

12,000,000 - 18,000,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Keith Haring
  • Untitled (diptych)
  • acrylic on panel
signed and dated 6.20.82


Private Collection
Christie's, New York, November 16, 2006, lot 446
Private Collection
Aste Boetto, Genova, October 23, 2012, lot 162
Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Keith Haring Studio with the application number 101512A2. 


This work is in good condition with occasional minor cracks to the wood inherent to the nature of the medium. A wood chip with associated paint loss, measuring approximately 1cm in diameter, is visible on the mid-upper edge of the lower panel. Under UV light, there appears to be a few instances of restoration around the edges. Please refer to the Contemporary Art department for the professional condition report.
"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

“Drawn with urgency, clarity, and brazen simplicity, Haring’s characters whisk us from the mysteries of ancient ritual to the hallucinatory interface of biology and technology in our cybernetic future now.” 1 

Born in Pennsylvania, Keith Haring is one of the most prominent voices of the 1980s Pop Art generation. Complex and compelling, his work profoundly challenges the spheres of art and life through his worldview, ideology and personality. Haring attended Pittsburgh’s Ivy School of Professional art from 1976 to 1978, and moved to New York to enroll at the School of Visual Arts where he studied painting. Greatly inspired and influenced by the thriving art community and the ever-changing Pop culture in post-war downtown New York, Haring started making drawings and graffiti in the streets and subway stations in the early 1980s. Haring’s art soon became icons of Pop art, and his practice of making art in public spaces forged a unique visual vocabulary that dominated his subsequent artistic development. In New York, Haring befriended and often worked alongside fellow artists including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kenny Scharf and most notably Andy Warhol, whose blending of high- and lowbrow cultures greatly inspired Haring.

In contrast to the abstract and conceptual approaches to art by his predecessors, Haring is celebrated for his simplified imageries of silhouetted figures in bold, black lines. The present work, painted in 1982, embodies a new kind of pictorial language that is both energetic and radical in its time. In Untitled (Lot 1043), the composition is a panoply of motifs including a dancing dog, a flying angel and a man marked by an X. All these elements are among Haring’s most iconic and universally recognized characters. Unlike Haring’s later works which became sexually-explicit, the present painting is a wonderful example of the artist’s early works which are charming and ingenuous in subject matter. Highly stylized, the figures are rendered in a flat, two-dimensional method with a cartoonish simplicity reminiscent of children’s drawings. The same year that the present painting was completed, 1982 was also a major breakout year in Haring’s artistic career when he made his debut with a hugely successful one-man show at the well-established Tony Shafrazi Gallery. This landmark show paved his way to international acclaim in the years that followed and since then, Haring’s work was exhibited widely both within the United States and abroad.

Particularly noteworthy in the present work are the extravagant drips of acrylic paint that trickle down the panel like waterfall. Like a dream-like rainforest imbued with the artist's trademark optimism and vitality, the drips intertwine with the bold lines of the characters where the angel, men and dogs interact to form a dynamic composition infused with movement and kinetic energy. The impressive scale of the work composed of two panels is also reminiscent of the artist's ephemeral public murals, demonstrating Haring’s immense ability to transgress the barriers between high art and popular culture and making him one of the most fascinating and influential figures of the eighties. As Tony Shafrazi, Haring’s primary dealer, has written, “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 infancy, but for Keith they were actual and attainable, through his art.” 2

While Haring’s cartoon-like characters often convey a fun and innocent atmosphere at first glance, there is a layer of confrontation and tension that are palpable upon closer look. In Untitled, the falling man in the upper-right quadrant and the flying angel in the upper-left quadrant allude to a sense of anxiety and panic. The winged angel riding through the air is particularly intriguing, alluding to the Apocalypse Messenger who tries to save the falling man from the barking dogs’ attack. The falling man with a cross as his eyes—a recurring symbol in Haring’s painting—could meanwhile be a reference to religion and the dogmatic principles of prejudice that characterized the times. At the bottom of the composition are three barking dogs that could be interpreted as dancing in joy or ferociously waiting to devour the falling man. The dancing dog, which is one of Haring’s most iconic and desirable motifs, is often interpreted as Anubis – the ancient Egyptian deity made of half-jackal half-human. In Egyptian mythology, Anubis is the God of the afterlife and usually identified with death and the other world. As one of the most outspoken homosexual men during a time when AIDS was a public crisis noticeably in Haring’s own East Village community, the artist is no-doubt confronting the implications of his sexual identity through the dog motif. Aside from being highly symbolic, Egyptian art is also made of walls covered with graffiti-like hieroglyphs, depicting figures within narratives as two-dimensionally flattened and walking linearly in side profile. Haring’s ability to syncretize historical motifs with contemporary style remains an alluring element of his art in the present day.

Untitled demonstrates Keith Haring’s impressive ability to redefine the boundaries of art by instilling classical sources to urban culture. Haring met a premature death in 1990 when he passed away at just 31 years old. Today his art is exhibited worldwide and continues to resonate across generations. His work has been kept in a number of major collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, where a similar work Untitled from 1982 is held, the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.

1 B. Blinderman, ‘And We All Shine On’, in G. Celant (ed.), Keith Haring, Munich 1992, p. 28
2 Tony Shafrazi cited in Exh. Cat., New York, Shafrazi Gallery, Keith Haring, May 1990