Keith Haring painting cut from artist’s bedroom wall to be auctioned | Keith Haring

In 2004, while on a bike ride through Kutztown, Pennsylvania, Scott and Angela Garner stumbled across their dream home: a brick Victorian house with shuttered windows and a wide front porch.

Inside, there was something completely unexpected. On the wall of a small downstairs room was a five-inch drawing just above the light switch. It was Radiant Baby, one of the most recognizable images of wildly successful 1980s pop artist and activist Keith Haring, drawn in gold against a bright blue background in his childhood bedroom.

The woman who bought the house from the Haring family – and later sold it to the Garners – had almost painted the picture over. But at the last minute, changing the bedroom decor from blue to pale yellow, she kept Radiant Baby.

“He was hidden in this house all these years, completely unknown,” said art historian Christine Oaklander.

Next month the image – now cut from the wall in a panel that includes the light switch – will go up for auction. A pre-sale price estimate has not been released by New Jersey auctioneers Rago/Wrights, but the record reached for a Haring artwork – for the 1982 painting, Untitled – is 6 $.5 million, although the sale went to trial after the buyer defaulted. .

Keith Haring in New York in September 1986. Photography: Joe McNally/Getty Images

“Radiant Baby is Haring’s tag, his signature,” Oaklander said. “What makes this so wonderful is that there is no doubting its authenticity. It’s unusual because it’s drawn in gold, and Haring mostly drew in white on black, or black on any substrate. I don’t mean it’s unique, but it’s rare.

The image is believed to date from the early 1980s, drawn while visiting family after the artist moved to New York where he quickly found a following and financial success.

In New York, Haring became involved with an alternative art community based in the city’s streets and subways rather than galleries and museums. He befriended Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kenny Scharf and began drawing on unused billboards in the city’s metro stations, sometimes creating 40 images a day. The metro has become a “laboratory” for experimentation, he says.

Haring gained international recognition in the 1980s and her work has been featured in over 100 exhibitions. He has produced over 50 public works of art around the world, many with social messages, but he has also undertaken commercially lucrative work, developing watch designs for Swatch and an advertising campaign for Absolut Vodka.

In 1986, he opened Pop Shop in Soho, selling merchandise bearing his images. He said the intention was to give people access to his work at a lower cost, but many in the art world criticized the venture.

Two years later, Haring was diagnosed with AIDS, and he established the Keith Haring Foundation to provide funds to AIDS service organizations and other social causes. He died in 1990 at the age of 31.

“He was a brave and remarkable man,” Oaklander said. “He was open about having AIDS in a time of stigma. He raised funds for his foundation to support causes he believed in. He wanted to help humanity.

Radiant Baby by Keith Haring above the switch where he was painted in his childhood home.
The image – cut from the wall in a panel that includes the light switch – will go up for auction next month in New Jersey. Photography: Courtesy Rago/Wright

When the Garners knocked on the door of the former Haring family home in 2004 to express their interest in buying it, the then-owner mentioned in passing that there was a drawing in a room that allegedly was designed by Keith Haring.

“Our hearts started beating really fast,” said Angela Garner, a social worker. “We were blown away that a world famous artist lived in the house.”

The couple invited Allen Haring, Keith’s father, who still lived in Kutztown, to the house. He confirmed that his son drew the image and signed a letter of authenticity.

The Garners protected the drawing with a glass panel and treasured it for 18 years. “He’s been part of our family for so long, but we always thought we could part with him,” said limo driver Scott Garner. “There’s not a lot of foot traffic in our house.”

Angela Garner said: ‘We believe this belongs in a museum. It tells a story, it’s part of Keith Haring’s childhood. Proceeds from the sale will help pay for their son’s school fees.

The couple said it was a sad moment when they removed the piece of wall and took it to the auction house. “But it’s encouraging to think that one day we might be able to see it in New York or Paris or Japan,” said Scott Garner.

Comments are closed.