First Look: Phillips Opens A Keith Haring Exhibition At K11 Musea
Auction house Phillips is opening an exhibition at K11 Musea on October 9 of works by the late, great American artist and activist Keith Haring, who is famous around the world for his exuberant, cartoon-like drawings of babies, barking dogs, flying saucers and more.
Haring first honed his distinctive style by drawing in chalk on the walls of New York City subway stations, making a name for himself with his graffiti before he started working with more traditional media such as paper and canvas in the early 1980s, when he became the toast of the art world and began being featured in commercial galleries, museums and international biennales.
But Haring never abandoned his street art roots or his commitment to make art available to all. In 1986, he opened the Pop Shop, which sold his art in the form of affordable T-shirts, toys, posters and buttons.
Much of Haring's work is brightly coloured and appears joyful, but he never shied away from tackling the big topics of his time: the apartheid in South Africa, nuclear war, drug abuse and the HIV-Aids crisis, among others. Haring himself passed away in 1990 from Aids-related complications. He was just 31.
Haring has long been hailed as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century in the US, but now his star is rising in Asia. "We have seen strong demand for street art and pop art in Asia in recent years, and Keith Haring is undoubtedly one of the greatest pop artists of the 20th century. Demand for his work has been rising here," says Jonathan Crockett, Asia chairman of Phillips.
"30% of Keith Haring works sold by Phillips this year have gone to Asia-based buyers. Asian transactional activity on Keith Haring more than doubled from 2018 to 2019, up 131% year on year by number of transactions. And Phillips has seen client interest in Keith Haring span the Asian continent with active sale participants in Greater China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea."
The exhibition is part of a series of art events being hosted at K11 Musea to celebrate the retail and cultural centre's first anniversary. Other events include the screening of artist Cheng Ran's latest film—starring actress Carina Lau and produced by Adrian Cheng, the founder of K11 Musea—and the unveiling of Van Gogh's Ear (2016), a major sculpture by Elmgreen & Dragset that is being shown in Hong Kong for the first time.
Works to make a beeline for at Keith Haring: Falling Up
The Acrobats (1987)
This 60cm tall enamel-on-metal sculpture reflects Haring's love of dance, which informed much of his work.
Art dealer and gallerist Tony Shafrazi, who was an early supporter of Haring's, encouraged the artist in the mid 1980s to transform his cartoons into sculptures, resulting in an exhibition of large sculptures at New York's famous Castelli Gallery in 1985.
This smaller piece, an edition of six made two years after the show at Castelli Gallery, references many of the monumental pieces in that show.
The Fertility Suite (1983)
These five screen prints feature many of Haring's signature icons and techniques: dancing figures, pyramids, flying saucers, a glowing baby and more, all executed in bright colours and thick, energetic lines.
Connecting all five works is the image of a pregnant figure. In one work, the pregnant figures seem to be worshipping a fertility god. In another, they are dancing around a glowing baby.
“The reason that the baby has become my logo or signature is that it is the purest and most positive experience of human existence,” said Haring in 1981.
This piece references Haring's famous painting Michael Stewart—(USA FOR AFRICA) from the same year.
Stewart was an African-American graffiti artist and acquaintance of Haring's who died after being arrested, beaten and strangled by policemen after a night out in 1983.
Michael Stewart—(USA FOR AFRICA) was Haring's response to this specific event and a broader reflection on racism.
This piece features similar figures and gestures from that seminal work and was included in the major retrospective of Haring’s career at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1997.
Keith Haring: Falling Up runs from October 9 to 18 at K11 Musea, Victoria Dockside, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui