Last month, the Keith Haring Foundation announced a major sale of works from the artist’s estate at Sotheby’s benefiting the New York LGBTQ organization the Center. That online sale, titled “Dear Keith: Works from the Personal Collection of Keith Haring,” ended today and brought in a total of $4.6 million across 144 lots, all of which were placed with buyers. The sale made more than three times its pre-sale high estimate of $1.4 million.
Comprising works traded between Haring and members of the East Village arts scene in the 1980s, the auction had offerings that were accessible to many. A large portion of lots by top names in contemporary art were on offer without reserve and at estimates as low as $100. This brought active bidding all the way up until the last moments of the week-long sale, which launched on September 24.
The top lot of the sale was a collaborative installation from 1981 featuring 19 clear Plexiglass slates and tagged with drawings by Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Fab 5 Freddy, Futura, Rammellzee, Haze, Zephyr, Sniper, CHI-193 and Chino. After drawing 29 bids, the work sold for $504,000, making six times its estimate of $80,000.
Another leading lot was Andy Warhol’s orange and green silkscreen portrait of Haring with his long-term partner Juan Dubose, which sold for $504,000, more than double the low estimate of $200,000. Roy Lichtenstein’s American flag–inspired print Forms in Space (1985) sold for $214,200.
The auction saw records for a couple artists whose work has seen posthumous revivals. After the artist’s work appeared in the Museum of Modern Art’s acclaimed rehang, Rammellzee’s Death Note, a spray-painted collage on wood from 1988, sold for $214,200. It was estimated to sell for $40,000. And then there were works by Haring’s close friend, the late photographer Tseng Kwong Chi, whose first major museum survey opened in 2015 at NYU’s Grey Art Gallery. Included were several works from his now-famous “East Meets West” series, in which the artist donned a Mao suit and posed next to distinctly American fare. His Disneyland, California (1979), from the artist’s “Ambiguous Ambassador” series, sold for a record-setting $25,200, over an estimate of $8,000 after 57 bids. Meanwhile, Cape Canaveral, Florida (1985), featuring Tseng at a U.S. Air Force station, brought in $17,640, against an estimate of $5,000.
“These series, begun concurrently with the ground-breaking work of Cindy Sherman, continue the Pop exploration of Warhol and anticipate the Instagram culture of today,” said Harrison Tenzer, Sotheby’s New York Head of Contemporary Art Online Sales, regarding Tseng’s work. “I believe that this sale, which set a new benchmark for the artist’s market, will draw more attention to [Tseng’s] essential role in the fabric of the New York art scene.”
Ephemera from Haring’s early days in New York also sold well. An untitled drawing by Basquiat featuring only a few scrawls made $100,800. On the back, an inscription by Haring reads: “This is the drawing Jean gave me for the Xerox catalog which accompanied the first exhibition I held at Club 57.”
Some artists seeing active interest elsewhere in the secondary market had works in the sale that saw spirited bidding. A 1985 boombox featuring painted designs by Kenny Scharf sold for $94,500 against an estimate of just $4,000. A record player by Scharf also sold for $75,600 against an estimate of $8,000. A small oil painting by George Condo from 1984 titled Def Jammy made $60,480.
Other in-demand works told lesser-known but equally compelling stories of Haring’s ties to major cultural figures. Works by writer and artist Brion Gysin—a collaborator of Haring’s—featured in the sale. Gysin’s sculpture Dreamachine, which he created with engineer Ian Sommerville went for $32,760, making more than 50 times its estimate of just $600. Gysin’s small-scale painting titled Jupiter Sahara, a surreal scene featuring a suspended central orb, sold for $8,820, making eight times its estimate of $1,000.
Warhol’s untitled silkscreen of a New York Post newspaper printed on tin foil from 1983 sold for $30,240, making three times its estimate of $10,000. An example of Warhol’s famously brash reproductions of somber episodes in American media, the piece features a news story about the October 1983 terrorist attack at a U.S. Marine base in Beirut with the headline “Grim Marine Toll Hits.”