What you see: An untitled Andy Warhol portrait of Keith Haring and his lover, Juan DuBose. Sotheby’s estimates it at $200,000 to $250,000.
The expert: Harrison Tenzer, Head of Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Online Sales in New York.
How did Andy Warhol and Keith Haring become friends? In 1989, Haring told Rolling Stone: “Before I knew [Warhol], he had been an image to me. He was totally unapproachable. I met him finally through Christopher Makos, who brought me to the Factory. At first Andy was very distant. It was difficult for him to be comfortable with people if he didn’t know them. Then he came to another exhibition at the Fun Gallery, which was soon after the show at Shafrazi. He was more friendly. We started talking, going out. We traded a lot of works at that time.”
When would these meetings have happened? I don’t know, but it was probably the early 1980s.
The release for the auction says Haring was “greatly influenced by Andy Warhol”. How did that influence show up in Haring’s work? Warhol was really an elder statesman of the art world for Haring’s generation. All the artists who came up in the 1980s really looked up to him. Haring was influenced by his pop iconography and the idea of art as a business. Haring was interested in making his art available to the largest number of people–he drew his work in the subway, and printed it on hats and t-shirts. At the Pop Shop [Haring’s boutique in the Soho neighborhood of Manhattan] you could buy things for very little. It was all directly influenced by Warhol. Haring even invented a character, Andy Mouse, which was a mash-up of Andy Warhol and Mickey Mouse. Both Warhol and Haring were obsessed with Walt Disney and saw Mickey Mouse as a symbol of American culture. Warhol, in his own way, was an American legend like Mickey Mouse.
Did Andy Warhol and Keith Haring ever collaborate? I’ve done some research and the only true collaboration I can find–and I can’t confirm it’s the only one–is a poster they did for the 1986 Montreux Jazz Festival. This is speculation, but Warhol did a number of collaborations with Basquiat that were not well received by the art community. It caused a rift between Warhol and Basquiat. After that experience, I think Warhol was pretty spooked by collaborating with young artists.
I’ve seen some of the Warhol-Basquiat things. I didn’t realize they were flops at the time. They weren’t seen as great examples of either of their work. Now, there’s a lot more appreciation for them, but they were not as successful as Warhol or Basquiat wanted.
So Haring and Warhol rarely worked together to make art, but it was strong enough to have meaningful effects? There are so many photographs of Haring and Warhol at parties. It’s clear from documentary archives that they spent a lot of time together. It’s interesting, because the two men were very different. Warhol was shy and withdrawn, and Haring was out dancing every night. They’re very different artists.
Do we know how this particular Andy Warhol portrait of Keith Haring came about? We don’t know the specifics of how it came to be, but this was a time in Warhol’s career when he was doing a lot of commissioned portraits of celebrities and friends in his network. He’d start with Polaroids and made silkscreens from selected images.
When was the Andy Warhol portrait of Keith Haring made? 1983.
So everyone was happy and producing art when this silkscreen was made. AIDS was just starting to bubble up, but Haring was still healthy.
Is this the only portrait Andy Warhol made featuring Keith Haring? The catalog raisonné that covers this Warhol period hasn’t been created. It’s hard to know for certain. We sold another double portrait in 2018. It’s the same dimensions and the same image, but in different colors. If we have had one come up and sold it, I imagine there are others.
So there’s more than one variation on the Andy Warhol portrait of Keith Haring. It’s a unique painting, not an editioned work. Warhol would have done the same silkscreen of Haring, but painting it with different color ways. They’re unique paintings, not prints.
Do we know how this particular one, with the orange background, ended up with Haring? Did Warhol give it to Haring, or did Haring choose it? That, we’re not sure. In 1983, Haring had just blown up and just become a sensation. I’m not sure Haring would have been in a place to ask Warhol [for the variation he liked best]. He would accept any gift he gave him.
Is this the only known portrait of Keith Haring and Juan DuBose, regardless of who made it? Or are there others? I don’t know. There might be photographs. I haven’t researched it.
The Andy Warhol portrait of Keith Haring has no title. Do we know why? Is that deliberate? We’re still doing research on it. But it was a gift to Haring, and it was a fully finished piece of artwork. I want to make it clear that it wasn’t a drawing or a a provisional castoff. It’s a unique, well-painted 1980s Warhol portrait, given to his friend.
Haring lived with this Warhol portrait. Sotheby’s sent along a photo that shows it hanging in Haring’s apartment. What does that say about how Haring regarded the work? He lived in many different apartments. I can’t confirm it was always on display. But it moved with him, and we have images of the work in different contexts.
Was it in Haring’s final apartment? Yes.
…But when you’re an artist, wall space in your own home is always scarce, no matter how big your home is. What does it say that Haring usually or always found room for this Warhol portrait of him and his lover? This particular work was pretty major. Juan DuBose was in Haring’s life for pretty much the decade of his major success. They had a contentious relationship at the time. Haring would have regarded the painting with mixed emotions. But he was from Kutztown, Pennsylvania, and in his twenties, he was painted by the most famous artist alive. He was also out as a gay man. To be painted by Warhol with his African-American male lover… that’s a pretty major departure from five to six years earlier, when he was playing it straight in Pennsylvania.
So it wasn’t just a portrait to Haring. It captured milestones in his life. He claimed his identity as an artist, as a gay man, and as an important man in the community. And it ticks the box of celebrity, because Warhol painted him.
What is the Andy Warhol portrait of Keith Haring like in person? Are there aspects that don’t come over on camera? It pops so much in person. It’s in great condition, and very vibrant. It appears much flatter in the photo. When you experience it in person, it’s a very well-executed, crisp screen.
With regard to the sale itself–how much of Haring’s personal art collection does it include? This represents all of it, to my knowledge.
Haring died in 1990. Why sell his personal art collection now? Why not earlier? For some time, the Haring foundation wanted to do a sale. Now is a perfect time because the market for many of the artists in the auction has matured. Street artists and graffiti artists, at the time of Haring’s death, were not valuable. The interest in a more inclusive market just wasn’t there in the early 1990s.
Why will this Andy Warhol portrait of Keith Haring and his lover stick in your memory? It’s a subject that burns like fire. It’s in-your-face and bold. There’s so much joy and eroticism and heat in the portrait, and we know what’s going to happen to each of these three men. Unlike Warhol, who was active for four decades in a major way, Haring only had one decade. But he burned so bright, like a candle lit at both ends.
How to bid: The Andy Warhol portrait of Keith Haring and Juan DuBose will appear in Dear Keith: Works from the Personal Collection of Keith Haring, a Sotheby’s online sale taking place from September 24 through October 1, 2020.
Image is courtesy of Sotheby’s.
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