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Keith Haring, Untitled (The Grace House Mural) (detail), ca. 1983–84. Courtesy of Bonhams.
Keith Haring, Untitled (The Grace House Mural) (detail), ca. 1983–84. Courtesy of Bonhams.

Keith Haring Mural Removed from Former Youth Center Heads to Auction

An eighty-five-foot Keith Haring mural that stretches across three floors of a former Catholic youth center on Manhattan’s Upper West Side will be sold at Bonhams auction house in November. According to the New York Times, the artist was first approached by members of the Grace House, who asked him to create something for the kids at the center, while at Paradise Garage, a SoHo nightclub, in the 1980s. That same night, Haring painted the mural, comprising thirteen figures, including a crawling baby and a barking dog, on the building’s walls.

After Grace House closed, the fate of the characters, which begin in the lobby and dance their way up the stairs, became uncertain. Ascension Church, which leased the space to Grace House, determined it needed to sell the nearly ninety-year-old building several years ago. While the church still hasn’t found a buyer, it decided to preserve the mural by cutting the iconic figures from the building’s walls and hired the conservation firm EverGreene Architectural Arts for the job. Nine hundred thousand dollars later, the thirteen figures have been safely extracted.

While Gil Vazquez, acting director and president of the Keith Haring Foundation, is glad the church recognized the importance of the work and decided against painting over it, he told the New York Times that he was disappointed to learn that the Church of Ascension planned to sell the piece—the first-ever mural by the artist to be auctioned. “This mural was not meant to be owned by a collector,” he said. “It was meant to brighten a room full of children.”

With an estimate of $3 million to $5 million, the mural, which will be sold as one work, will be on display at Bonhams from November 2 until November 13, the day of the auction house’s postwar and contemporary art sale. According to Bonhams, the church will use the proceeds from the sale to fund major capital projects at the parish. Bruno Vinciguerra, the executive chairman of the auction house, called the piece “one of the most exciting lots to come on to the market this year.”

Keith Haring, Untitled (The Grace House Mural) (detail), ca. 1983–84. Courtesy of Bonhams.