Keith Haring painting cut out of the artist’s bedroom wall to be auctioned

Keith Haring painting cut out of the artist’s bedroom wall to be auctioned

Keith Haring painting cut out of the artist’s bedroom wall to be auctioned

In 2004, on a bike ride through Kutztown, Pennsylvania, Scott and Angela Garner stumbled upon their dream home: a brick Victorian home with shutters on the windows and a large front porch.

There was something completely unexpected inside. On the wall of a small room downstairs was a five-inch drawing just above the light switch. It was Radiant Baby, one of the most recognizable images of the hugely successful pop artist and activist of the 1980s Keith Haring, drawn in gold against a vibrant blue backdrop in her childhood bedroom.

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

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

Next month the image, now cut from the wall into a panel that includes the light switch, will be auctioned. A presale price estimate has not been released by the New Jersey auctioneers Rago / Wrights, but the record set for a work of art by Haring – for the 1982 Untitled painting – is $ 6.5 million, although the sale led to a lawsuit after the buyer defaults.

Keith Haring in New York in September 1986.

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

“Radiant Baby is Haring’s label, his signature,” Oaklander said. “What makes him so wonderful is that there is no question about the authenticity of him. It is unusual because it is drawn in gold and Haring mostly drew white on black or black on whatever the substrate was. I don’t want to say it’s unique, but it’s rare. “

The image is thought to date back to the early 1980s, drawn during a visit to his family after the artist moved to New York, where he quickly found a following and financial success.

In New York, Haring became involved in an alternative arts community that was based in the streets and subways of the city rather than in galleries and museums. He became friends with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kenny Scharf and began drawing on unused advertising boards in the city’s subway stations, sometimes creating 40 images a day. The subway has become a “laboratory” of experimentation, he said.

Haring has won international recognition and his work has been featured in more than 100 exhibitions. He has produced more than 50 public works of art around the world, many with social media messages, but he has also taken on commercially profitable jobs, developing watch designs for Swatch and an advertising campaign for Absolut Vodka.

In 1986 he opened Pop Shop in Soho, selling merchandise featuring his images. You said the intention was to allow people access to your work at low cost, but many in the art world have criticized the company.

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

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

When the Garners knocked on the door of the Haring family’s former home in 2004 to express interest in buying it, the then owner briefly said there was a drawing in a room that was thought to have been drawn by Keith Haring.

“Our hearts started beating very fast,” said Angela Garner, a social worker. “We were amazed that a world famous artist had lived in that house.”

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

The Garners protected the design with a glass panel and treasured it for 18 years. “It’s been part of our family for so long, but we always thought we could part with it,” said Scott Garner, a limo driver. “There isn’t a lot of foot traffic going through our house.”

Angela Garner said: “We believe it belongs to a museum. Tell a story, it’s part of Keith Haring’s childhood. ”The proceeds from the sale will help pay for his son’s college bills.

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

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