Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Day Auction


Keith Haring
1958 - 1990
signed on the reverse
cut vinyl on plastic board
61 by 61 cm. 24 1/4 by 24 3/4 in.
Executed in 1987.
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This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by the Authentication Committee of the Estate of Keith Haring and numbered 090806A6.


Gallery 121, Antwerp, Belgium
Douglas Spawlding Collection (acquired from the above in 1987)
Private Collection, Boston
Lio Malca Collection, New York (acquired from the above in 2006)
Ikon Ltd. Santa Monica, USA
Acquired from the above by the present owner


Santa Monica, IKON Ltd., Artists of the Eighties, November - December 2006

Catalogue Note

Radiating with the energy of the New York art scene in the 1980s, Keith Haring’s work brims with kinetic gesture and confidence. Seeing the role of artist as antagonist, Haring’s art is direct and confrontational, laced with emotion and history. His brief, but intensely productive career synthesised a new populism; like contemporary hieroglyphics, Haring constructed his own visual language to communicate with a wide-stretching audience. Expanding on the legacy of Pop Art as it united street culture and high art, X Man is a striking example of Keith Haring’s universally recognised style.

Born in Pennsylvania in 1958, Haring grew up witnessing a United States traumatised by the Vietnam War. In a country beset by inequality and discrimination, Haring matured with an ignited urge to stand against injustice. There was a universal method to this: art. Haring retained an ardent belief in the power of art to vivify and transform at a public level. Whilst at the School of Visual Arts in New York, Haring was first introduced to semiotics – the study of signs and symbols. He then formulated his own artistic alphabet with which he could communicate through painting. Characters and shapes narrate his body of work: barking dogs, radiant babies, pulsing TVs, multi-limbed figures. This new language allowed him to speak to the masses, defying language barriers and uniting communities through his art – Haring had invented a universal system of communication.

X Man incorporates one of the main symbols in Haring’s artistic language: the figure with a cross. For Haring, this figure symbolises the human as a target, a victim of injustice. One could view this specific image as distinctly personal to Haring. In 1988, diagnosed with AIDS, Haring himself became the target of society with their immediate dismissal of the virus.

Sharp, contrasting colours define the present work. The cross on the figure’s stomach is mirrored in the overall composition of the work; four God-like hands emerge from the corners, pinching and pulling at the figure in the centre. Idiosyncratic of Haring’s style, the work is “activated” by sharp strokes around the hands and limbs of the silhouette. "I am intrigued with the shapes people choose as their symbols to create a language. There is within all forms a basic structure, an indication of the entire object with a minimum of lines that becomes a symbol. This is common to all languages, all people, all times" (Keith Haring, unpublished journal entry, The Keith Haring Foundation, 1979, online). Haring’s artistic language is all-encompassing; connecting the origins of language – hieroglyphics – with the origins of art – cave painting. Haring’s contribution to the art historical canon goes without saying. His art still radiates with as much energy as the day it was created.

Contemporary Art Day Auction