This month Christie’s is auctioning NFTs of five never-seen Keith Haring pieces made on a computer given to him by Timothy Leary in 1986. Each is expected to sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
At the time he gave Haring the lowly Amiga, Leary hoped to make an interactive promotion for the film Neuromancer.
Via the New York Public Library:
Leary and Haring met through their mutual acquaintance, Grace Jones, at Paradise Garage in the mid-eighties. Shortly after their meeting, a note from February 29, 1984 indicates that Timothy’s wife Barbara sent Haring a copy of Leary’s autobiography Flashbacks. According to a later letter dated July 15 from Delhi, Haring felt compelled to send the author the drawings he had done while reading it.
Haring’s drawings and Flashbacks again tied back to their friendship with Grace Jones. In the note accompanying a portrait of Jones, Haring wrote, “The drawing of Grace at Paradise Garage is my first drawing of Grace. I have drawn ‘on’ Grace but never drawn her.” Imagery of Grace Jones would remain present throughout their correspondence and collaboration. Haring ended the letter by saying “I am now even more excited and enthusiastic about finding a way to work together on a computer program… sharing some time ‘exchanging’ and ‘exploding’ some ideas together.”
Heartened by his interactive response to Flashbacks, Leary officially asked Haring to collaborate on what was intended to be the second Neuromancer project. Leary wrote back to Haring saying “The drawing of Grace celebrates so many rare moments in our lives. It is precious to us… So, let’s talk about what we can share together and explode on screens. I see your art as perfectly harmonious with screen presentation. Your style is, more than any other artists geared to 21st century expressions.”
Christie’s notes that Haring embraced digital technology, even including a pre-Mac Apple Lisa ][ computer in one 1984 analog piece.
To accurately preserve the natively digital material created on a now-vintage computer system, the Keith Haring Foundation has minted the Amiga artworks — previously only viewable via floppy disks — on the Ethereum blockchain. For the first time, the unique digital drawings can now be collected, exhibited and even printed.
The auction is open for bidding from 12–20 September, with an exhibition at Christie’s New York from 14–19 September and in Seoul from 7–8 September.
Leary’s ambitious Neuromancer Mind Movie never materialized, but Haring’s inspired art lives on!