An online sale of a Keith Haring collection at Sotheby’s has more than tripled its pre-sale estimate of $1.4 million, accumulating a total of $4.6 million in sales. This was spread across 144 lots, all of which were sold, gaining ‘white glove’ status in auction terms. The sale, titled “Dear Keith: Works from the Personal Collection of Keith Haring,” was announced last month by the Keith Haring Foundation and will give full proceeds to the New York LGBTQ+ Community Center.
The Keith Haring Sale Was Accessible
The Sotheby’s sale contained works that were accessible to a wide range of bidders. Lots by top contemporary artists were offered without reserve and held at estimates as low as $100, which encouraged younger buyers to participate. This kept the bidding process active until the very end of the Keith Haring sale on September 30th and brought in a 50% ratio of new clients. It also contained works that were exchanged between Keith Haring and the East Village art scene, featuring numerous pop-culture references from the 1980s.
Highest Sotheby’s Lots Sold For Over $500,000 Each
One of the most expensive works at the Sotheby’s Keith Haring sale was a 1981 collaborative piece by Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Ramellzee, Fab Five Freddy, Futura, Zephyr, Haze, Sniper, CHI-193 and Chino, made up of 19 Plexiglass slates and decorated with drawings. It sold for $504,000, more than 4 times its high estimate of $120,000.
The other top seller was a 1983 silkscreen portrait of Keith Haring and his partner, Juan Dubose, by Andy Warhol. The orange and green portrait also sold for $504,000, which was more than double its high estimated price of $250,000.
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The next highest sellers at the Sotheby’s sale were an untitled sketch on aluminum from 1985 by Jean-Michel Basquiat and a work on paper from 1985 by Kenny Scharf with alien figures, shapes and bright colors, which both sold for $226,800. Basquiat’s piece was given a high estimate of $150,000, while Scharf’s piece had a high estimate of $35,000.
Also of note were Roy Lichtenstein’s Forms in Space American-flag style print from 1985, inscribed “For Keith” by the artist, and Rammellzee’s Death Note spray-painted wood collage from 1988, which both sold for $214,200 each. The Lichtenstein piece had a high estimate of $70,000, while Rammellzee’s piece was estimated at $60,000.
These were not the only posthumous revivals of artists’ works; Keith Haring’s friend and late photographer Tseng Kwong Chi’s Disneyland, California (1979) from the “Ambiguous Ambassador” series set a record at $25,200 after being estimated at $12,000. Additionally, Chi’s Cape Canaveral, Florida (1985) sold for $17,640 after a $7,000 estimate. His works from his now very popular “East Meets West” series were also successful.
Keith Haring: Street Art And Social Activism
Keith Haring was an American artist who was a major contributor to the Street Art and Pop Art movements during the mid-late 20th century. Much of his graffiti-like murals take from New York City culture in the 1980s, and they often center around LGBTQ+ culture, sexual health and social activism during the AIDS epidemic. He was part of New York’s underground art scene during the 1980s, collaborating with other notable creatives including Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Vivienne Westwood.
Before his death, he founded the Keith Haring Foundation, which supports the arts and other non-profit organizations that help with the education, care and prevention of HIV/AIDS in youth communities. He has been named an inaugural honoree in San Francisco’s Rainbow Honor Walk, which notes LGBTQ+ people who have made “significant contributions in their fields.”