A new Christie’s auction has brought to light five digital artworks Keith Haring created in 1987 on a Commodore Amiga computer. With Pixel Pioneer, Christie’s will sell these artworks as NFTs.
But, where did these drawings come from? They were once only viewable on floppy disks, before the Keith Haring Foundation moved to mint the collection. The Amiga used to create the artworks was gifted to Haring by his close friend, the psychologist Timothy Leary in the mid-80s – you might know of Leary from his ample work advocating psychedelic drugs. Leary also gave an Amiga to other artists like Andy Warhol, who came up with pixelated artworks depicting subjects like a banana and a big red flower, also minted by Christie’s in 2021.
In a recent feature, Christie’s cites both Warhol and Haring’s interest in digital art beginning at a party for John Lennon’s son in 1984. Steve Jobs was also in attendance (if you can imagine such a guest list) and bought a Macintosh computer along. Warhol had previously shown little interest in owning a Macintosh, but started to play around on the discontinued vector tool MacDraw after a tutorial from Jobs – you can read more about that incredible story here. Both artists would return to the computer at various points throughout their careers.
The Pixel Pioneer drawings feature Haring’s signature use of vibrant colour and expressive pattern. But they also appear to play with the format of a screen through the presence of block shapes, knobs and dials. Haring himself considered the digital medium a good fit for his practice, writing in his journal in 1986: “My drawings were perfect for translation into computers because the drawing line was already very close to the idea of ‘pixels’. There are endless possibilities to be investigated in this area.”
Pixel Pioneer launches at Christie’s from 12–20 September. Nicole Sales Giles, Christie’s vice president and director of digital art sales, says: “Haring’s work embodied an era where art crept outside the traditional gallery walls and into the streets. I believe that as an early adopter of the digital age and as a strong proponent of bridging art and mass culture, Haring would have been at the forefront of the Web3 community.”
GalleryKeith Haring: Untitled (Copyright © Keith Keith Haring Foundation, 1987)
Keith Haring: Untitled (Copyright © Keith Keith Haring Foundation, 1987)
About the Author
Liz (she/they) joined It’s Nice That as news writer in December 2021. After graduating in Film from The University of Bristol, they worked freelance, writing for independent publications such as Little White Lies, INDIE magazine and design studio Evermade.