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Keith Haring’s Personal Art Collection Is Up for Auction

Sotheby’s sale features works by Warhol, Basquiat, Lichtenstein and other members of the graffiti artist’s circle

This Andy Warhol print of Haring (left) and his lover Juan DuBose is expected to fetch around $250,000. (The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / Licensed by Artists Rights Society, New York via Sotheby’s)
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Later this month, Sotheby’s is set to auction more than 140 works from artist and activist Keith Haring’s personal collection. Open for bidding between September 24 and October 1, the online sale features art by Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Roy Lichtenstein, as well as other artists who, like Haring, were pioneers of the Pop Art movement and street art scene.

As Wallace Ludel reports for the Art Newspaper, the auction—titled “Dear Keith: Works From the Personal Collection of Keith Haring”—is expected to raise nearly $1 million. All proceeds will be donated to the Center, an LGBTQ organization based in Manhattan’s West Village.

An openly gay man, Haring was a vehement supporter of the Center, and in 1989, he made a mural for its second-floor men’s restroom. Titled Once Upon a Time, the artwork touched on sexual liberation and envisioned a world without AIDS. Less than a year after its creation, 31-year-old Haring died of AIDS-related complications.

Sotheby’s organized the sale in collaboration with the Keith Haring Foundation, which the artist established in 1989 to protect and maintain his legacy. Per a statement, the items on offer are “works gifted to, purchased by and traded with Haring among friends and artists in his community.

Highlights include an untitled Warhol print of Haring and his on-again, off-again lover, DJ Juan DuBose; works on paper by Kenny Scharf; and an untitled Basquiat painting on “found aluminum.” Sotheby’s sale will mark the first time these artworks appear at auction, according to the Art Newspaper.

More than 140 works from Haring's personal collection are set to appear at auction for the first time ever. (© Keith Haring Foundation / Polaroids, the Keith Haring Foundation Archives / Photo by Scott Schedivy)
Untitled work by Kenny Scharf (Courtesy of Sotheby's)

“The collection is remarkably autobiographical, just as any great collector’s estate is a window into their individual perspective,” Harrison Tenzer, head of Sotheby’s online contemporary art sales, tells Zachary Small of the New York Times. “Keith Haring collected through relationships to those he was stylistically, morally and intellectually aligned with.”

As a regular at Club 57—a nightclub that operated out of a church’s basement in the late 1970s through early 1980s—Haring built a network of other like-minded artists. During his lifetime, he acquired pieces by individuals including Warhol, graffiti artist John “Crash” Matos and muralist Lady Pink, all of whom are represented in the auction.

Haring often injected his own political and personal stances into his color-drenched creations, many of which contain references to sexual orientation and the AIDS epidemic of the ’80s and ’90s.

“It feels as if Keith himself rallied his friends to make art for this specific purpose,” Gil Vazquez, acting director of the Keith Haring Foundation, tells the Times. “The Center embodies so much of what Keith was about: community, empowerment and the support of our future, the youth.”

Funds raised by the auction—whose lots range in price from a $100 painting by David Bowes to the $250,000 Warhol print, per the Art Newspaper—will help make up for losses associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the Times, the Center is projecting a $5.4 million revenue deficit.

“Dear Keith” also commemorates the 30th anniversary of its namesake’s untimely death in 1990.

“Sometimes, I like to think what Keith would do if he were still alive,” Glennda Testone, executive director of the Center, tells the Times. “I think that he would be really proud of the work that we are doing within our community to strengthen our bonds and our resiliency.”

About Jennifer Nalewicki

Jennifer Nalewicki is a Brooklyn-based journalist. Her articles have been published in The New York Times, Scientific American, Popular Mechanics, United Hemispheres and more. You can find more of her work at her website.

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