Keith Haring was an American artist who was one of the driving forces in the art community that developed outside the gallery and museum system in 1980s New York. Haring is known for his cartoony drawings with thick outlines that are still able to convey movement and something deeper than what you might imagine with such a simplistic style. These appreciable qualities have helped Haring become one of the most popular and recognizable artists in the world, and thus, the pace at which his prices appreciate can be enticing for investors/ collectors.
Yet, I think there are two considerations that beginner investors should hear before deciding to invest in Keith Haring:
Beware of Fakes and Souvenirs
The first warning is concerned with the number of Keith Haring artworks on the market. Because Haring was committed to making his artwork available to as wide an audience as possible, his work has been plastered on almost every product you can think of. While he was alive he opened the Pop Shop, a retail store in Soho (and eventually in Japan too) selling T-shirts, toys, posters, buttons, and magnets bearing his images. And after his death, his foundation has entered into many branding partnerships, including recently with Cotton On, a discount fast-clothing store.
Combine this fact with the ease at which counterfeiters can reproduce his work and we have to sift through a lot of crap when searching for a worthy Keith Haring investment. This is a similar problem I wrote about with Banksy, but unlike Banksy, Haring doesn’t have a team that will authenticate an artwork any more (the team was disbanded in 2012).
To further illustrate this point; take the number of artworks for sale for a given artist on Artsy. For Keith Haring their are almost 1,000 artworks listed, a great number for an artist that produced work for a relatively short period of time. We can compare this number to other Blue Chip artists to get a sense of what we are dealing with in the Keith Haring market.
- Yayoi Kusama has only 500 works for sale which is surprisingly low for the amount of art-adjacent (junk) she sells at Museum gift shops that some like to try and pass off as collectables.
- Jean-Michel Basquiat has only 550 work for sale even though his work has been similarly bastardized and plastered on every kind of cheap product.
- Banksy has the same number of artworks for sale as Haring (about 950), but as noted above, I have warned about potential counterfeits in Banksy’s market too.
- Artists with a greater number of artworks for sale on Artsy include Pablo Picasso (20,00), Andy Warhol (3,000), and Damien Hirst (1,500), although the first has been producing works for over a century while the latter two are well known to employ studios to pump out huge quantities of work.
It would be best to set a budget of $10,000 or more for a Keith Haring work to avoid the mountains of low-investment-grade objects that are on the market. $10,000 is about where the market starts for this prints. I understand this is out of the budget of many first time investors so an art fund, like Masterworks, might be a better option when investing in Haring.
Beware of Changing Sentiment
The second warning is concerned with the possibility that market/ public sentiment might turn against Keith Haring, or at least he might lose the interest of younger investors whom are making up a growing portion of the market. The reason I think it is a possibility is because I have read his autobiography, which is comprised from his hand written journals. On several occasions in this book, Haring talks unambiguously about under-aged boys in a sexual manner and definitely inappropriate for 2023 standards.
Still, cancelling Keith Haring might be as hard as cancelling Michael Jackson at this point. Both are perhaps too entrenched in popular culture to ever be dislodged. In this case, his status as a safe investment will likely remain for the distant future. And further, his autobiography has been out for years now and there appears to have been no repercussions or discussion about Haring’s potential flaws.
Still Want to Invest in Keith Haring?
Its likely that Keith Haring will remain a good investment in years to come regardless of the warnings stated above. If you are still interested in purchasing a Keith Haring work, I recommend you follow the below to help you avoid investing in a fake Keith Haring:
- Buy from Reputable Galleries. By buying from a reputable gallery, you can ensure that the artwork you are purchasing is authentic and has been properly vetted by experts.
- Invest via an online platform like Masterworks, Yieldstreet, or Public. Via these platforms you can buy fractional shares in very expensive and guaranteed-authentic Keith Haring artworks.
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Check out Masterworks and Yieldstreet to explore art funds that let you purchase shares in million-dollar artworks from blue chip artists like Banksy, Kaws, and Yayoi Kusama.
Read more: Art ETF: Masterworks vs. Yieldstreet