Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990) Dog 1986

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Lot 2*
Keith Haring
(American, 1958-1990)
Dog
1986

Sold for £ 375,062 (US$ 467,121) inc. premium
Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990)
Dog
1986

signed, dated 86 and numbered 8/10 on a label affixed to the reverse
enamel and silkscreen on plywood

128 by 96 by 4 cm.
50 3/8 by 37 13/16 by 1 9/16 in.

This work is number 8 from an overall edition of 35, consisting of 15 white on black, 10 black on yellow, 10 red on black, 7 artist's proofs and 3 unique colour variant trial proofs.


Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Edition Schellmann, Munich - New York
    Private Collection, Switzerland

    Literature
    Jörg Schellmann, Edition Schellmann 1969-1989, Munich 1989, p. 137, another example illustrated in colour
    Jörg Schellmann, Forty Are Better Than One, Munich 2009, p. 143, another example illustrated in colour



    Dog, from 1986 is a quintessential and powerful work by Keith Haring. A pioneer of the Contemporary Art world, Keith Haring's work would go on to redefine art as we know it. Working alongside artworld giants such as Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, Haring sought to break down the barriers between high and low culture, creating a whole new vocabulary of symbols, one that would become synonymous with the visual culture of the latter half of the twentieth century. Executed in 1986, Dog is boldly demonstrative of the artist's unique vocabulary and more specifically his most recognisable motif, the barking dog.

    Addressing highly controversial and taboo subjects, Haring didn't shy away from uncomfortable truths surrounding social injustice, AIDS, the drug crisis and racism, which he depicted using his unique iconography. Embedded in the fast and decadent culture of 1980s New York, Haring's work mimicked the city's own convergence of high and low culture, bringing together the creative principles of graffiti, semiotics and the art historical canon. By elevating primitive stick figures and cartoon characters to the same level as high art, Haring sought to democratise art, championing the individual and standing up for the oppressed.

    Based on a keen awareness of how pictures can serve a similar function to words, Haring was impressed early on by the hieroglyphic writings of the ancient Egyptians. In the present work, the plywood has been cut to the shape of a dog, reminiscent of the Egyptian deity, Anubis. Half-human, half-jackal, Anubis, god of the underworld, would lead your soul to the afterlife.
    Describing his work, Haring stated "I was thinking about these images as symbols, as a vocabulary of things. In one a dog's being worshiped by these people. In another one the dog is being zapped by a flying saucer. Suddenly it made sense to draw on the street, because I had something to say. I made this person crawling on all fours, which evolved into the 'baby.' And there was an animal being, which now has evolved into the dog. They really were representational of human and animal. In different combinations they were the difference between human power and the power of animal instinct" (the artist in an interview with David Sheff, 'Keith Haring: Just Say Know', www.rollingstone.com, 10 August 1989).

    The barking dog is one of Haring's trademark picture-words, with Anubis standing in for its most macabre iteration: death. Visually assertive, the bright yellow paint used in conjunction with the shine of the black silkscreen ink in the present work acts as a warning sign, while the X-branded men, television sets and transgressive images of men and dogs emphasise the animal instinct in each of us. The dizzying frenzy of the work's interior filled with dozens of Haring's picture-words, create a fluid sentence moving through the crawling baby in the lower left foot – the emblem of a positive future – through to anthropomorphic dogs dancing on top of men – playing into Egyptian conceptions of life and death as well as Christian notions of the 'dance of the dead'. Scattered throughout are human targets branded by the letter X, including one involved in explicit liaisons with a dog in the foot of the right leg and another at the very top, the winged man or angel – symbol of death but also of the battle of good against evil – rides a dog, the X sealing their fates. These symbols would have deeply resonated with those living through the AIDS epidemic sweeping through New York City. As a gay man, Haring's life and work were entrenched in this community, becoming a huge advocate for AIDS activism. In 1989 following his own fateful diagnosis he would go on to found the Keith Haring Foundation which would provide funding for AIDS organisations and children's programmes. Keith haring died in New York City on 16 February 1990 at the age of 31.

    During his short ten-year career, Haring managed to produce some of the most iconic and universally recognisable images of the late twentieth century, producing work that would go onto influence a generation of artists. Through the work of the Keith Haring foundation, Haring's work has been recognised across major galleries and institutions worldwide and can be found in the collections of the Whitney Museum of Art, Washington, LACMA, Art institute of Chicago, the Ludwig Museum, Cologne and the Stedlijk Museum, Amsterdam including a recent major retrospective at the Tate Liverpool, currently on view at the BOZAR in Brussels.
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