Bloomsbury Withdraws Suspect Keith Haring Drawings

The Keith Haring Foundation is one of several artist foundations that no longer authenticate works. Photo: Courtesy the Keith Haring Foundation.

Graffiti artist Keith Haring Photo: Courtesy the Keith Haring Foundation.

London auction house Bloomsbury has withdrawn four works purported to be by Keith Haring after questions were raised by artnet News about their authenticity and history of ownership. As artnet News reported Thursday evening, online portal Paddle8, which featured the Bloomsbury auction of modern and contemporary art on its website, took down the four works after artnet News inquired about them. Bloomsbury said that it was initially unaware of the Paddle8 removal, and that it had now removed the works and its specialists were currently investigating the matter further.

Bloomsbury CEO Stephan Ludwig confirmed with artnet News in an email Saturday morning that they had also voluntarily withdrawn the works from sale: "As regards the Haring works, you will know that we have withdrawn them from sale and are doing additional research in light of the very serious allegations of criminal intent that your article implies."

The four works in question include a subway sign and three drawings attributed to Haring, all purportedly from a "private Swedish collection," ranging in price from $10,000 to $25,000 (£6,000 to £15,000). They include Street Sign Grafitti (1985), the lowest priced work at $10,000 to $13,500 (£6,000 to £8,000), which consisted of graffiti marker on a metallic street sign that reads “Jackson Avenue." According to its catalogue entry, it was “acquired from the original installation site on Jackson Avenue, New York on 6th September 1985."

The other three works, all estimated at $17,000 to $25,000 (£10,000 to £15,000), specify that they come with a letter of authenticity by Angel Ortiz, a former friend of Haring who is still an active artist and goes by the street name la2. The background information for these three other works also includes the original installation site and date they were removed, such as Subway Drawing (1984), “acquired from the original installation site on Cypress Avenue, New York on 16th June 1984."

The official authentication committee for Haring was disbanded nearly two years ago, though some sources say they never authenticated subway drawings in the first place since Haring never intended these as artworks. When we contacted Ortiz, he confirmed that he had signed paperwork authenticating these but added: "If people want to buy them, that's up to them."

After artnet News's initial inquiry about these pieces to Paddle 8, they were all removed from the Paddle8 site. Thomas Galbraith of Paddle8 said “as a company we always err on the side of caution and continue to have very high expectations when it comes to due diligence. When we were notified of a potential problem with these lots, they were immediately removed while we initiated an investigation. This is in no way intended as an implication of any wrong doing on Bloomsbury's part, rather it comes from a desire for an abundance of caution."