There will be a watch among the lots at the upcoming Sotheby’s online auction titled “Dear Keith: Works from the Personal Collection of Keith Haring.” And it’s not the Keith Haring watch from Swatch or the G-SHOCK x Keith Haring DW5600. Instead, it’s a Gumby watch with a personal story behind it. It’s even signed by Andy Warhol. While the watch is part of the auction, this is the first public mention that the watch will be coming up for sale. Bidding will open on September 24 and run until October 1. The auction can viewed online here.
In the early 1980s, American artists Andy Warhol and Keith Haring had become close friends. Both artists became known for their contributions to American pop art. Warhol explored the idiosyncrasies of advertising and the cult of celebrity, and Haring’s graffiti-esque work, born from the streets of New York City, played a part in raising awareness around AIDS, the condition which Haring eventually succumbed to.
In an issue of Rolling Stone from August of ’89, Haring recalled the early days of their friendship: “I met [Warhol] finally through [photographer] Christopher Makos, who brought me to the Factory. At first, Andy was very distant. It was difficult for him to be comfortable with people if he didn’t know them. Then he came to another exhibition at the Fun Gallery, which was soon after the show at Shafrazi. He was more friendly. We started talking, going out. We traded a lot of works at that time.”
They also exchanged gifts, and this Gumby watch was one of them. Harrison Tenzer, Head of Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Online Sales in New York, dates the gifting to the mid-to-late ’80s, saying, “We know that this would have been gifted between 1985 when the watches were brought to market by the Prema Toy Company, and Warhol’s death in February, 1987.”
Warhol signed the watch before gifting it, and Haring framed it. Warhol was a watch collector himself, owning a number of Pateks as well as watches decorated with cartoon characters. For a man like Warhol, a watch is more than just a watch, and Tenzer has an idea about what it meant to Warhol and Haring: “Both Warhol and Haring were intrigued by the symbolic power that cartoon figures such as Mickey Mouse possessed in the American Psyche – Haring created a figure called ‘Andy Mouse’ that depicts Andy Warhol as Mickey, and Warhol created a series depicting children’s toys in 1983. While not as symbolically potent as Mickey Mouse, Gumby had been an influential TV and toy presence since the late 1950s and would have intrigued both artists. It is telling that Haring framed the watch, enshrining it as a work of fine art that hung in his home.”
And shortly, this Gumby watch that’s come to symbolize an important friendship may hang in a lucky collector’s home – be it of art or watches.
The watch carries an estimate of $ 800-$ 1,200 and will be live on the lot preview page, which can be viewed here, soon.