Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990) Mother and Child, 1986

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Lot 30W
Keith Haring
(American, 1958-1990)
Mother and Child, 1986

Sold for US$ 1,296,500 inc. premium
Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990)
Mother and Child, 1986

incised 'K. Haring 86' and with the artist's insignia (on the base)
painted aluminum

91 x 89 x 48 in.
231 x 226 x 122 cm.

This work is number one from an edition of three.


  • Provenance
    The Estate of Keith Haring, New York
    Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris
    Acquired directly from the above by the present owner in 1999

    New York, Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Keith Haring, 17 January-14 February 1987
    Paris, Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Keith Haring - 12 Sculptures, 4 June-23 July 1999, p. 27, illustrated in color and p. 39, illustrated in color
    Paris, Champs-Élysées, Les Champs de la Sculpture 2000, 1 September-14 November 1999

    Germano Celant, Keith Haring, Milan 1994, p. 229, illustrated in black and white

    Keith Haring is considered to be one of the most pioneering, innovative and significant artists of the twentieth century. With his roots in graffiti and street art in New York's East Village in the 1980's, his hugely varied, prolific and far reaching body of work encapsulates and reflects a period of experimentation, turbulence and creativity within the United States. Mother and Child, 1986, which comes to auction for the first time from an esteemed private collection, is a joyful culmination of Haring's practice.

    Haring began experimenting with large outdoor sculptures later in his career and they became immediately iconic and recognizable features in cities, parks and institutions around the world. Created only a few years before his sudden and untimely death in 1990 from AIDS, at a time when America was trying to grapple with varying social issues, Mother and Child reads as a rich celebration of life and birth, relationships and connections and the triumph of the human spirit. Haring was born in Kutztown, Pennsylvania in 1958. He moved to New York at the age of twenty in 1978 to study painting at the School of Visual Arts. His first early works to receive recognition were his subway drawings which he created using chalk on unused black boards in the city's subway stations. Their spontaneous guerrilla spirit and cryptic consumerist-inspired graphics read like subterranean cave drawings for modern commuters. He created thousands of these drawings over a period of four years, but their socially charged mission and humanist spirit would come to define his artistic career.

    It was during the time that Haring created his subway drawings that he began to devise his own defining artistic lexicon, establishing icons and motifs that would become staples of his creative vernacular. Coming from a religious upbringing, Haring would include religious imagery throughout his practice. The Radiant Baby features throughout his works, rendered as an outline of an infant on all fours, often with vibrant rays emanating from it. This halo effect evokes a sense of a religious aura, allowing comparisons to that of Christ. Meanwhile, the present sculpture employs the motif of the Mother and Child, one of the most fundamental forms of representation within the art historical canon. Taken from depictions of the Madonna and Christ in early Christian iconography, Haring's Mother and Child extends this tradition. Though the artist abstracts the figures, stripping them of identifying features and even gender, the instantly recognizable form of a mother swinging her small infant in play is unmistakable. It evokes the same composition and maternal movement of that of Leonardo da Vinci's exemplary ode to familial love The Virgin and Child with St. Anne, circa 1510.

    The medium of the sculpture beguiles the spontaneity and movement of the work. Forged in aluminum, it is a monumental work rendered in a sleek industrial gray tone. Towering above the viewer, the strength and colossal impact of the work is palpable. Yet the intimacy of the connection between the two figures and the delicacy of the fleeting moment captured by the artist creates a warmth and closeness paradoxical to the cold metal. Haring's large-scale sculptures marked a fundamental change within his artistic practice. The strength of the medium allows for both indoor and outdoor display, changing the environment in which it is placed and encouraging different interactions with the viewer.

    Haring had a fascination with metal, extolling its strength, weight and permanence. This obsession with the enduring, almost monumental creations, parallels Haring's interest in immortality, particularly his own. Despite its warm, jovial subject matter, alluding to birth and life, the period of its creation is notable however, as a decade when the United States was grappling with the AIDS crisis which saw swaths of people die unexpectedly including Haring's peers and then Haring himself. The AIDS epidemic, marked by mass deaths and panic from a lack of understanding of a silent and lethal virus spurred questions in American culture over homosexuality and civil rights. In this environment, it seemed for Haring that death was a consistent figure within his life but in turn also made him more appreciative of life's everyday experiences.

    In Mother and Child Haring does not lament but rather reaffirms the human spirit and the joy of the human experience. Lively, joyful and full of vigor, Mother and Child is a reflection of how Haring lived and remains a stunning testament to an artist who celebrated the beauty of art within life.
Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990) Mother and Child, 1986
Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990) Mother and Child, 1986
Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990) Mother and Child, 1986
Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990) Mother and Child, 1986
Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990) Mother and Child, 1986
Keith Haring (American, 1958-1990) Mother and Child, 1986
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