The Keith Haring Foundation is selling over 140 objects from Haring’s personal collection via Sotheby’s to benefit the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center of New York (the Center) in the West Village. Titled Dear Keith: Works from the Personal Collection of Keith Haring, the online sale will run from September 24 to October 1 and be on view at Sotheby’s New York by appointment from September 26-30. It is the first time that these works, which include paintings, photographs, prints, and hand-painted objects, have come to auction.
Haring acquired these items via trade, gift, or purchase, often from people in his social and artistic circle. In a way, the collection presents a picture of his life, tracking some of his most important personal relationships. The sale features work by Haring’s childhood friend Kermit Oswald; his classmates at New York City’s School of Visual Arts like John Sex and Kenny Scharf; and graffiti artists and muralists such as John “Crash” Matos and Lady Pink. The least expensive work in the auction, a painting by David Bowes, is estimated at $100.
Works by Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, two of Haring’s friends and contemporaries, are among the priciest on offer: an untitled Basquiat painting on found aluminum is valued at $100,000–$150,000, while Warhol’s neon silkscreen portrait of Haring with on-and-off partner Juan Dubose is leading the sale with an estimate of $200,000–$250,000. Dubose died in 1988 due to illness related to AIDS; Haring would pass due to AIDS-related illness two years later, making 2020 the 30th anniversary of the artist’s death.
The Keith Haring Foundation, which is dedicated to protecting the legacy of Haring’s work as well as his advocacy for children’s charities and AIDS organizations, began organizing the sale with Sotheby’s last year. Per The New York Times, the foundation had been advised by legal counsel that “keeping a collection made by artists other than its founder might fail to serve its charitable purpose.”
The auction is estimated to raise nearly $1 million, all of which will go to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center. Haring had a personal relationship with the Center; in 1989, on the 20th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, he painted a mural, “Once Upon a Time…”, which envisioned a world without AIDS, on the second-floor men’s bathroom of its building.
The Center has reportedly projected $5.4 million in losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hyperallergic spoke with Glennda Testone, Executive Director of the Center, about the significance and potential impact of the charity sale.
“At The Center, we’re facing a significant funding gap alongside the challenges presented by delivering our services remotely, while our building is closed for public safety,” she said. “In fact, we’ve seen a 45% increase in demand for mental health counseling and substance use treatment throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“Our friends at the Haring Foundation and the artists who are participating in the auction see that need and have stepped up to ensure that we deliver our crucial services during this critical time. The Center is incredibly grateful to the Foundation and the artists participating for their commitment to carrying on Keith’s legacy and to supporting the LGBTQ community he was a part of and cared about deeply.”