Vibrant Pop Shop
by Aron Packer,
During our Tradition & Innovation auction on Thursday, December 3, 2020, Toomey & Co. Auctioneers will have two examples by important post-Warholian artists, Keith Haring (Lot 57) and Jeff Koons (Lot 58). They seem to be opposite sides of a similar coin to me, and much could be said about the prolific and provocative Koons, but my focus for the moment is Haring, as we will have two other works (Lots 114 and 115) by him on offer in our Art & Design auction on Sunday, December 6, 2020.
Memories of New York City and Keith Haring’s Pop Shop
I remember going to New York City in the 1980s to visit one of my good old friends. When he lived in Chicago, he would get me out of the house and took me to New Wave dance clubs, which were often associated with the contemporary art scene of the time. He moved to New York in the late 1970s and I visited on multiple occasions. My friend lived in a fifth-floor, walk-up apartment in the East Village, and the neighborhood was pretty rough then. During the day, he would take me to all of the galleries that were up and coming, and I saw that you really could do almost anything you wanted as an artist at that point. Those trips to New York in the late 1970s and 1980s were pivotal in inspiring my lifelong passion for the arts. On one of my later trips, I remember going to Keith Haring’s Pop Shop after it opened in 1986. The place was wild, decorated like a day-glo mini club, and its atmosphere was electric. Music was pumping and there was floor-to-ceiling imagery everywhere. I was thoroughly impressed and that experience definitely strengthened my connection to the underground art world.
Biography of Artist Keith Haring
Keith Haring was born in Reading, Pennsylvania in 1958. His father was an engineer and drew cartoons. Haring was quite a devout Christian in his youth, but he eventually channeled that religious fervor into making art. His earliest influences were Walt Disney and Charles Schulz along with Looney Tunes and Dr. Seuss.
In 1976, Haring enrolled at the Ivy School of Professional Art in Pittsburgh, but he quit two years later to pursue his art independently. In the late 1970s, Haring explored the art of Jackson Pollock, Jean Dubuffet, and others. He had his first solo exhibition in 1978 at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and subsequently moved to New York City to study painting at the School of Visual Arts.
Before long, Haring started to create public art in subway stations, often in the form of chalk drawings on empty, black ad panels. In the early 1980s, Haring developed his trademark symbol, “The Radiant Baby,” an image transposed from his religious past to a colorful, Pop art context. Haring’s Pop Shop opened in 1986 in Soho, making his art and reproductions available to the general public at reasonable prices.
In 1988, Haring tested positive for HIV and soon created a foundation to fund care-giving organizations and help make those dealing with the disease visible. In 1990, Haring died of AIDS-related complications. Today Haring’s work is immediately recognizable and represented in several important collections, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.
Keith Haring’s Pop Shop II in Tradition & Innovation on December 3, 2020
In Tradition & Innovation on Thursday, December 3, we will have Lot 57, a single example from Pop Shop II, which was a second group of four prints Haring made in 1988, after the successful release of Pop Shop I in 1987. These were works available at the Pop Shop, which was a commercial yet artistic extension of Haring’s practice. Placing his imagery at affordable price points was one of the enterprise’s main goals. Clothing and gift items could be had by customers along with screenprints of high aesthetic quality like the one offered here. This particular work presents one of Haring’s signature graffiti figures doing a backbend, not a yoga pose that we might see today but a 1980s breakdancing move. The color palette is luscious with rich texture and the ink is buttery with a thick application. All three colors play off one another nicely, with the electric figure emanating and pulsing.
Two Keith Haring Works in Art & Design on December 6, 2020
In Art & Design on Sunday, December 6, we will auction two other works by Keith Haring. Lot 114 is an untitled example of a screenprint on canvas. This imagery is identical to what is known as the Dr. Winkie Wedding Invitation. Featuring two dancing figures sharing a head, with a heart within the shared cranium, this is a sweet yet lively composition and clearly made a great invitation. Lot 115 is a more classical visual, in the sense that it is reminiscent of the dynamic Cubism of Pablo Picasso, Fernand Léger, or André Masson. A two-headed, armed figure seems to work in tandem to juggle two balls in the air. The abstract yellow, red, and green shapes in the background support the figurative plane. This piece has a more European feel to it, as opposed to Haring’s iconic street figures, which makes sense because Haring created this to pay tribute to International Volunteer Day for the World Federation of United Nations Associations (WFUNA). The Emiliano Sorini Studio printed this edition of 1,000 and the lithograph bears blindstamps of the studio and WFUNA in the lower-right corner. Fittingly, WFUNA’s stamp is a tiny globe.
Keith Haring’s Pop Shop I in Tradition & Innovation on December 2, 2018
During the inaugural Tradition & Innovation on December 2, 2018, Toomey & Co. Auctioneers sold two Pop Shop I prints from 1987 by Keith Haring separately and each realized $16,900. Lot 63 and Lot 64 show celebratory, animated figures and incorporate a shared palette of three bold colors. It is fascinating to see how Haring elaborated this concept initially before moving on to Pop Shop II the following year.