KEITH HARING’S UNTITLED (1984) WILL BE THE FIRST TANGIBLE ARTWORK TO BE OFFERED BY A MAJOR AUCTION HOUSE IN EUROPE WITH THE OPTION OF PAYING THE FINAL PURCHASE PRICE IN CRYPTOCURRENCY
PART OF THE LONDON TO PARIS SALE SERIES TAKING PLACE ON 30 JUNE 2021
- Keith Haring’s Untitled (1984, estimate: £3,900,000-4,500,000) was created in 1984 at the dawn of the digital era, and is one of the earliest depictions of a computer in a painting
- Untitled was originally owned by the German gallerist Paul Maenz, one of the most influential gallerists of his generation who introduced new waves of Avant-garde artists to both European and American audiences in the 1970s and 80s
- The London to Paris livestreamed sale series, incorporating Christie’s salerooms in Hong Kong and New York, will encompass the 20th/21st Century: London Evening Sale, 20th/21st Century: Collection Francis Gross, and the 20th/21st Century: Paris vente du soir
Keith Haring, Untitled (1984, estimate: £3,900,000-4,500,000)
acrylic on canvas, in four parts: each: 60 x 60in. overall: 120 x 120in
London – Christie’s will be the first major auction house in Europe to offer a work with the option for the buyer to pay the final purchase price, including Buyer’s Premium, in cryptocurrency. The sale of Keith Haring’s Untitled (1984, estimate: £3,900,000-4,500,000) will also mark the first time that a tangible work of art is being offered in Europe by an auction house with the option to pay in cryptocurrency. Originally owned by the celebrated German gallerist Paul Maenz, who unveiled the work in Cologne shortly after its creation, Untitled prophesises the dawn of a new era. Dating from 1984, the year that the first Apple Macintosh was released, it stands among the earliest painterly depictions of a computer, heralding the birth of the digital age.
Katharine Arnold, Co-Head, Post-War and Contemporary Art, Christie’s Europe: “Christie’s has been pioneering the sale of digital artworks and use of cryptocurrencies throughout 2021. It is fitting that we are set to become the first auction house in Europe to offer the option to pay the final purchase price in cryptocurrency via the sale of Keith Haring’s Untitled, which anticipated the digital era as early as 1984. This exquisite painting is one of the earliest depictions of the home computer, Apple having marketed their first at-home product earlier the same year. It celebrates a futuristic vision and we are thrilled to present the work as a highlight of our international London to Paris sale series.”
Across four conjoined panels measuring nine square metres, a sci-fi bacchanal unfolds: flying saucers collide mid-air, while angels soar, monsters writhe and disembodied limbs pluck aeroplanes from their flight paths. At the centre, the computer reigns, mounted on a pyramid like an ancient deity. The structure assumes an anthropomorphic form, with the machine serving as the head; its outstretched arms, like scales, hold a spaceship and a human brain, as if triumphantly having superseded both as the world’s determining force. Tiny figures bow down before it, their arms raised in ecstatic worship. Loaned to the Neues Museum, Weimar, between 1993 and 2005, the work captures the clairvoyant power of Haring’s art, blending the utopian, the dystopian, the ancient and the contemporary into a thrilling vision of the future. Haring’s various mythic allusions coincided with the birth of a new, contemporary legend: the rise of the home computer. Following the release of the IBM PC in 1981, Apple unveiled their iconic Macintosh model on 24 January 1984.
If the painting pulsates with the rhythms of New York’s 1980s dance clubs, where Haring was a regular, it also demonstrates the diversity of his artistic sources. As a child, he would spend hours drawing with his father, an amateur cartoonist, developing a love of graphic characterisation that would later find expression in the crawling babies, barking dogs and UFOs that populated his early graffiti on New York’s subways. The intuitive, semi-automatic freedom with which he organised his linear motifs was nourished by his admiration for artists such as Pierre Alechinsky and Jean Dubuffet, who wove similarly fantastical worlds from the most economical of means. Haring’s fascination with Mayan, Aztec and other ancient cultures, fuelled by long hours spent in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, is evident in the present work’s imagery of ritualised worship, as well as its codified, pictographic narratives. The writhing ball of snakes to the right of the computer evokes the Medusa of Greek legend, whilst the composition as a whole conjures grand Old Masterly tableaux such as Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s The Fall of the Rebel Angels (1562), or Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights (1490-1500). It is a vivid testament to Haring’s wide-ranging referential compass, shifting seamlessly between worlds.