Following the opening of Sotheby’s first edition of its Contemporary Art online day sale, featuring works by emerging primary market artists and contemporary mainstays, among the top lots on offer is Keith Haring’s 1984 muslin painting from one of the seminal collaborations of his short career. The cultural relic has an estimate of $300,000-400,000 and is open to bidders until on May 14th.
In 1983, Haring was opening a major solo show at London’s Robert Fraser Gallery, where he collaborated with award-winning choreographer Bill T. Jones. In this first joint project with the dancer, he painted Jones’ body in white featuring the signature hieroglyphic-scrawl for a photographic series taken by Tseng Kwong Chi. For the young artist, 1983 was a major year. Haring had just had his premiere solo exhibition at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery. By 1984, he was the subject of international institutional surveys.
In 1984, Haring collaborated with Jones on a seminal project called Secret Pastures. This was the second time the two had worked together. The first had been in 1982 when the graffiti artist was just 24. They created the performance piece, Long Distance.
Secret Pastures drew attention for its critical response to the AIDS epidemic. The painted muslin work on offer is a fragment from a tent designed and painted by Haring for the set of Secret Pastures. The tent featured as the performance’s central prop, covered with the flattened figures that are Haring’s signature. Opening night for Secret Pastures at the BAM festival attracted art-crossing-over-to-popular-culture figures like Andy Warhol and Madonna. In a New York Times review that same year, critic Anna Kisselgoff noted the piece as “a serious attempt to deal with story-telling in a new, nonlinear way.”
Placed in the day sale among a host of more traditional paintings, the work is an example of one of Haring’s non-canvas works from a peak moment in his career. The artist’s market is highly saturated with more affordably priced editions from his Pop-shop days, but also with gems from downtown collaborations that have a rarity akin to his canvas paintings. Among one of the most expensive lots currently on offer in the sale, it carries a conservative price relative to its market history. Another strip from the painted prop sold for $500,000 in a Sotheby’s contemporary art day sale in May 2019.