Bonhams Achieves World Auction Record For A Keith Haring Mural

Keith Haring's Untitled (The Church of the Ascension Grace House Mural) achieved $3,860,075, a world auction record for a Keith Haring mural at Bonhams sale of Post-War & Contemporary Art on November 13. This was the first Haring mural ever to come to auction. The monumental 85ft mural was painted circa 1983/1984 in the stairwell of Grace House, a former convent and home of the Catholic Youth Organization in Upper Manhattan.

Bruno Vinciguerra, Bonhams Executive Chairman, commented: "Keith Haring's mural was one of the stand-out lots of this auction week – and we were delighted with the result. The work generated an enormous amount of interest during its exhibition and we welcomed visitors to Bonhams from all around the globe. The success of today's sale as a whole was testament to the quality of the works on offer."

One of Haring's least-known, best-hidden treasures, The Grace House Mural was painted by the artist in a single night without a preparatory sketch or underpainting. The 13 figures have been described as a "lexicon of Haring's vocabulary". It contains his iconic figures such as the Radiant Baby, the Barking Dog, and the figures dancing. The mural was consigned on behalf of Ascension Church to fund major capital projects at the parish, including significant accessibility upgrades.

Bonhams Post-War & Contemporary Art Sale as a whole achieved a total of $6,626,300.

Other highlights included:
- Helen Frankenthaler's Mica, 1981, an extraordinary example of Frankenthaler's groundbreaking soak-stain technique from her mature period of the 1980s and having remained in the same private collection since 1994 sold for $487,575.

- All three lots by Louise Nevelson sold, with Rain Forest Column XVIII, achieving $225,075.

- George Condo Simon Bar Sinister, 2009, made $250,075.

- Sam Francis' Of the Rope Star (SFF:636), 1973-1974, acrylic on canvas, sold for $237,575.

- A collection of Alexander Calder jewelry, with Ring, 1960, achieving $60,075.

Keith Haring and Grace House

Keith Haring (1958-1990) is synonymous with the gritty, hedonistic, boundary-breaking, electric mix that was the downtown New York art scene of the 1980s. Even now in the 21st Century, 1980s New York has been understood and venerated as an artistic Golden Age, one which produced titans who continue to hold value and shape the international art world and market. Keith Haring was one of those key figures. His artwork, with its deceptively simple, bold lines, and dynamic figures in motion, instantly grabbed the world's attention. By expressing concepts of birth, death, sex and war, Haring's images have become widely recognized and celebrated internationally.

Haring was a regular fixture on the vibrant, no holds barred lower Manhattan club scene. Here he was mixing with the reigning kings of the art world, including Andy Warhol, Jean Michel Basquiat, and Kenny Scharf. One evening, Haring met two members of the Catholic Youth Organization, Benny Soto and David Almodovar, and they formed a tight friendship. Both went to work for Haring, Soto as an art assistant and Almodovar later managing Haring's Pop Shop in SoHo.

This friendship led to an invitation to Grace House, where Haring agreed to paint its stairwell. He knew exactly what he wanted to do: impressively, he completed the mural without working out the composition in a sketch or an underpainting in advance. The spontaneous mural begins with the Radiant Baby and ends at the third-floor landing with a figure that seems to dive into a doorway, with only its lower half visible.

Throughout his career, Haring led art workshops for children in museums and schools around the world and devoted much of his time to public works, which often carried social messages. He produced more than 50 public artworks between 1982 and 1989, in dozens of cities around the world, many of which were created for charities, hospitals, children's day care centers and orphanages.


NOTES FOR EDITORS

Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest and most renowned auctioneers, offering fine art and antiques, motor cars and jewelry. The main salerooms are in London, New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, with auctions also held in Knightsbridge, Edinburgh, Paris, San Francisco and Sydney. With a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 22 countries, Bonhams offers advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full list of forthcoming auctions, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments, please visit bonhams.com.

Contacts

Related auctions