NEW YORK, 1 October 2020 – Nearly 450 bidders, 29 artist records and an average of 33 bids per lot drove Sotheby’s white-glove sale of Dear Keith: Works from the Personal Collection of Keith Haring, which achieved an outstanding $4.6 million – more than three times the sale’s $1.4 million high estimate. 100% of the lots on offer sold, and 94% of them achieved prices above high estimate, with most lots soaring exponentially beyond expectations.
The dedicated online auction featured 140+ works of art and objects from Haring's personal collection, on offer from the Keith Haring Foundation – an organization established by the artist shortly before his death in 1990 from HIV/AIDS-related causes. In keeping with the Keith Haring Foundation’s mission to sustain and expand the artist’s legacy of philanthropy, full proceeds from the auction will benefit The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center of New York (also known as The Center) – an organization that empowers the queer community of New York to lead healthy, successful lives; celebrates the community’s diversity and advocates for justice and opportunity.
Harrison Tenzer, Head of Sotheby's Contemporary Art Online Sales in New York, said: “We are honored that the Keith Haring Foundation and The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center of New York entrusted us with selling the personal collection of Keith Haring on the 30th anniversary of his passing. This has truly been a labor of love for Sotheby’s, The Foundation, the Center, and all of the artists and artist foundations who shared a wealth of information with us, which allowed us to contextualize each artwork in the sale and highlight Haring’s legacy and the work of his closest friends and collaborators. The incredible result – a white glove sale that set 29 artist records and soared beyond expectations – is a testament to the incredible legacy of Keith Haring. Keith touched the lives of so many people with his generosity, and with this gift to the Center, his largess continues.”
Gil Vazquez, Acting Director of the Keith Haring Foundation, said: “We had an idea that the sale of this group of works for this cause would be a great thing. We could not have imagined these results. We would like to thank Sotheby’s for being such a great partner in this endeavor, the collectors of course, everyone who participated in the panel discussions, the press for spreading the good word, the Keith Haring Foundation staff for their hard work, the Haring Foundation trustees for their unanimous approval of the sale & the LGBTQ+ Community Center for what they do day in and day out. It took a village to make this happen. Our dear Keith would be beaming with pride.”
Glennda Testone, Executive Director of The LGBT Community Center, said: "On behalf of all of us at The Center working to provide the services and support LGBTQ community members need, thank you to the Haring Foundation for their incredible generosity, and to Sotheby's for making this collaboration so successful. We are overwhelmed and sincerely grateful for this financial support, particularly at a time when we face a serious revenue gap and an increase in demand for services. Seeing the Haring Foundation step up like this demonstrates the power of individuals and organizations to ensure that The Center's crucial services continue to be provided to those who need us most."
Featuring works gifted to, purchased by and traded with Haring among friends and artists in his community, including Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kenny Scharf, and many more, all of the works appeared at auction this fall for the first time, together revealing never-before-told stories about Haring’s community and bringing to life the celebrated art scene of 1970s and 80s New York – from the School of Visual Arts (SVA) and Club 57 to street art and beyond.
Works by Andy Warhol soared exponentially beyond their high estimates, led by an Untitled portrait of Haring with Juan Dubose which achieved $504,000 – doubling its $250,000 high estimate. Dubose was a DJ as well as Haring’s partner and lover, who passed away due to HIV/AIDS in 1988. Haring and DuBose had a passionate on-and-off relationship for five years that was predominantly driven by physical attraction.
A Warhol ‘Tie’ reached $201,600 - more than 28x its $7,000 high estimate. In 1984, Warhol and Haring attended Sean Lennon's birthday party. Warhol gifted Haring one of the "ties" he had brought to give to Sean - discarded "trimmings" from the edges of his paintings. Additional works by Warhol far surpassed their high estimates, including Untitled (Querelle) which reached $44,100 – more than 29x its $1,500 high estimate; Untitled, a signed offset poster reproducing one of the artist’s silkscreen prints of Mickey Mouse, which fetched $27,720 – more than 13x its $2,000 high estimate. Haring was greatly influenced by Andy Warhol, who was both a friend and artistic collaborator, and the two traded a lot of works.
An untitled work by Fab Five Freddy, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Futura, Rammellzee, Haze, Zephyr, Sniper, Chi-193 and Chino raised $504,000 – more than four times its $120,000 high estimate. The present work is a rare example of street artists tagging Plexiglas instead of a wall or train car. Fab Five Freddy invited who he considered to be some of the best graffiti artists to tag the tiles in white marker. He envisioned hanging the Plexiglas tiles on a white wall so that the distinction between the lines and the wall would be faint, a radical departure from the robust color and graphic punch of graffiti on the street. While these works were never exhibited together as intended, the grouping perfectly encapsulates the free flow of ideas between Downtown and Uptown artists. The street art scene in which Haring worked in the 1970s and 80s was well represented throughout the sale, with strong results for John “Crash” Matos, Lady Pink, Lee Quiñones, and Rammellzee.
Works on paper by Kenny Scharf further highlighted the sale, led by his large-scale spray enamel on paper Untitled, which reached $226,800 – more than six times its $35,000 high estimate (pictured left). A number of hand-painted objects soared exponentially beyond their estimates, including Untitled (Boom Box), which reached $94,500 – more than 15x its $6,000 high estimate; and Untitled (Wall Clock), which fetched $22,680 - more than 11x its $2,000 high estimate. Scharf was particularly close with Haring – having become fast friends at the School of the Visual Arts, the two were roommates and collaborated often.
The sale featured a significant group of works by artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Drew Straub, John Sex and Bruno Schmidt who were associated with Club 57 – the night club located in a church basement in New York’s East Village and one of the most influential centers of the city’s countercultural movement when it opened its doors in 1978. The selection was led by Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Untitled, acrylic on found aluminum, achieved $226,800 – 1.5x its $150,000 high estimate (pictured right). Haring greatly admired Basquiat’s work: in his essay “Remembering Basquiat” published in Vogue, Haring wrote: "His work had a kind of power which was unmistakably 'real'. The intensity and directness of his vision was intimidating. Jean-Michel was maybe a little too real for us. He was uncompromising, disobedient, and rude if the situation required it. Not malicious, but honest.” Artist records were set for Straub, Sex and Schmidt.
Over 30 works achieved more than 10x their high estimates: David Bowes’ Untitled – which achieved $13,860 – more than 69x its $200 high estimate (pictured left); Brion Gysin’s Dreamachine, the artist’s most famous artistic invention, which reached $32,760 – more than 40x its $800 high estimate; a Pair of Doors, which achieved $11,970 – more than 39x its $300 high estimate, and many more.
Fascinated by cartoons from an early age, Keith Haring was best known for striking graffiti-inspired drawings that took him from New York City’s streets and clubs to museums and public spaces around the world. While attending the School of Visual Arts in New York in 1978, Haring discovered a thriving art community of fellow emerging artists such as Kenny Scharf, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Tseng Kwong Chi. Haring created a singular graphic style based on the primacy of the line, peopling his compositions with such signature images as dancing figures, “radiant babies,” barking dogs and flying saucers, and infusing them with uncommon energy.
Between 1980 and 1989, Keith Haring achieved international recognition, participating in numerous group and solo shows and producing more than 50 public artworks from New York to Paris. By expressing universal concepts of birth, death, love, sex and war, Haring created a lasting imagery that has been embraced around the world. Haring’s works can be found in the collections of many museums including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Albertina, in Vienna, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and many more.
Shortly before his death in 1990, Haring established the Keith Haring Foundation. The mission of the Foundation continues to be threefold: the support of organizations committed to enriching the lives of children, promoting care and education surrounding issues of HIV/AIDS, and furthering the legacy of his artwork.