Artist Keith Haring definitively left his mark throughout New York City, from murals like Crack is Wack in Harlem to large-scale sculptures and smaller interventions. This year marks the 30th anniversary of his death in 1990 due to complications from AIDS at just 31. On September 24th, Dear Keith, an auction at Sotheby’s of Haring’s personal collection begins, revealing a lesser-known side of Haring and his life in the art scene of the 1970s and 80s New York.
Haring’s last address was at 542 LaGuardia Place in a six-floor building between Bleecker Street and West 3rd St in Greenwich Village. The apartment is also where he died on February 16, 1990. His studio was just four blocks away at 676 Broadway, now the Keith Haring Foundation. Inside his apartment was a collection of artwork he traded for, purchased, or was gifted by his friends who are now some of the most notable artists from the period including Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Roy Lichtenstein, George Condo, Jenny Holzer, and more. These works comprise the more than 140 piece collection to be auctioned at Sotheby’s this month.
Inside Keith Haring’s last apartment. Photo by Nancy Elizabeth Hill, courtesy of Sotheby’s.
The promotional materials for the Sotheby’s auction feature photographs taken by Nancy Elizabeth Hill of Haring’s apartment at 542 LaGuardia Place in 1989. The photos show an apartment of clean white walls with a white fireplace mantel in which Haring carved out his signature dancing figures with the date 1989. In contrast, the artworks displayed are exuberant in color and design. A television and stand are fully decked out, pop art sculptures are on display in built in shelves, a leopard print couch sits in front of the windows. A photograph from the Keith Haring foundation show
Andy Warhol, Portrait of Keith Haring and Juan DuBose. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.
On the wall between the windows that overlook the Washington Square Village housing complex hung an intimate portrait of Haring and his partner Juan Dubose by Andy Warhol. Warhol and duBose died within months of each other, and Haring said in a Rolling Stone interview in 1989, “Within a month, Andy passaed away…This was after losing a lot of other friends, too. I was supposed to go on vacation. A week before I was to go, my ex-lover Juan Dubose who had been sick for a while, died.” Haring also says in the same interview that initially he found Warhol “totally unapproachable” but after a few more encounters, “he was more friendly. We started talking, going out. We traded a lot of works at that time.”
Roy Lichtenstein Forms in Space. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.
Above the mantel in Haring’s apartment was also a framed print of Forms in Space by Roy Lichtenstein. Sotheby’s describes this as a “prized’ possession of Haring. The Guy Hepner gallery in New York, which also has a print of this work writes that “In Forms In Space Roy Lichtenstein integrates the readymade quality of screen prints and a painterly gesture with the use of thick lines, flat surface planes, and obscured perspective. The horizontal orientation of the flag depicts Lichtenstein’s signature dots. A tension between the painter’s hand and mechanical reproduction is exhibited in this print.”
Kenny Scharf, untitled. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.
Other works in the auction collection include pieces by Kenny Scharf, Stefano Castronovo, Samantha McEwen, Kermit Oswald, Kenny Scharf, Bruno Schmidt and John Sex, who were all part of the Club 57 scene, a counterculture nightclub in the basement of an East Village church that was a locus for the New York City art scene. Sotheby’s writes that the works “bear witness to a definitive downtown scene fueled by low rents, opposition to the Reagan administration, and the desire to experiment with new modes of art, performance, fashion, music, and exhibition. There are also works by notable street artists like John “Crash” Matos, Lady Pink, Lee Quiñones, Rammellzee and Basquiat, who are regularly featured in more present-day exhibitions about the origins of street art.
Jean-Michel Basquiat, untitled. Image courtesy of Sotheby’s.
The sale, expected to raise more than $1 million, will benefit the The Center: The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center where Haring painted his last mural. Despite the high overall estimated amount to be raised at the auction, Sotheby’s expect some pieces to sell for $100, “presenting collecting opportunities at all levels,” the auction house states. You can see these works on exhibit at Sotheby’s by appointment on York Avenue between September 26 and 30.
Keith Haring in front of mural at LGBT Community Center, photo courtesy LGBT Community Center.