Sotheby’s $4.6 Million Sale of Keith Haring’s Personal Art Collection Tripled Expectations and Drew in Droves of New Buyers

The proceeds from the sale will benefit the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center of New York.

Keith Haring, Untitled (Elvis) (1981). Image courtesy Sotheby's.
Keith Haring, Untitled (Elvis) (1981). Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Sotheby’s online sale of works from Keith Haring’s personal collection, including those by the artist himself, reaffirmed the late street artist’s far-reaching popularity. The week-long sale, titled “Dear Keith,” which ended yesterday, realized $4.6 million, three times its high estimate. It also sold 100 percent by lot, giving it the status of a “white glove” sale, in auction parlance.

As major auction houses continue their efforts to court younger buyers with pop culture-related offerings, Sotheby’s reports that more than 50 percent of bidders to the Haring sale were new clients.

Andy Warhol, Portrait of Keith Haring and Juan DuBose (1983). Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Andy Warhol, Portrait of Keith Haring and Juan DuBose (1983). Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

The top sale of the evening’s 140 lots was Andy Warhol’s portrait, Keith Haring and Juan DuBose (1983), which sold for $504,000, or double the high $250,000 estimate. Haring once admitted that he was initially intimidated by Warhol but that the two eventually became friendly and traded numerous works.

A composite untitled work, jointly made in 1981 by street artists Fab Five Freddy, Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Futura, Rammellzee, Haze, Zephyr, Sniper, CHI-193, and Chino, was also a top seller, taking in $504,000 on a high estimate of $120,000. Sotheby’s said the work is a rare example of street artists tagging Plexiglas instead of a wall or train car. (It was Fab Five Freddy who invited those he considered to be the best graffiti artists to tag the tiles in white marker.)

Fab Five Freddy, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, et al... Untitled (1981). Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Fab Five Freddy, Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, et al… Untitled (1981). Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

The street art scene that Haring thrived in during the 1970s and ’80s was well represented throughout the sale, with strong results for John “Crash” Matos, Lady Pink, Lee Quiñones, and Rammellzee. Rammellzee’s sculpture Death Note: Intrude the Prelude-Paint a Time That Clocks Out, (1988), sold for $214,200, against a high estimate of $60,000.

An unassuming untitled sketch by Jean-Michel Basquiat, made of acrylic on found aluminum, also leapt past expectations, selling for $226,800 (estimate: $100,000—150,000). And Roy Lichtenstein’s visually striking Forms In Space (1985), sold for $214,200, also well above its presale high estimate of $70,000. It is dated 1985 and inscribed “For Keith.” Meanwhile, a circa 1985 work on paper by Kenny Scharf, featuring the artist’s signature vibrant colors and alien-like figures, sold for $226,800.

Kenny Scharf, <i>Untitled</i> (1985). Image courtesy Sotheby's.

Kenny Scharf, Untitled (1985). Image courtesy Sotheby’s.

Shortly before Haring’s death, in 1990, the artist established the Keith Haring Foundation to help enrich the lives of children, promote care and education surrounding HIV/AIDS, and further the legacy of the artist. The foundation sold the works at Sotheby’s and will donate all of the proceeds to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center of New York, for which Haring created a large-scale mural in 1989.


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