Sun, Mar 01, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Haring or not, painting goes on sale for US$0.99


A 2m painting that may or may not be the work of famed pop artist Keith Haring went on sale on eBay on Friday night. Opening bid: US$0.99.

The seller is a Pennsylvania man, Ed Oswald, who believes the Hope painting to be an original Haring.

But his cousin Kermit Oswald, a childhood friend of Haring and one of the world’s leading authorities on his work, has long said it’s a knockoff.

As a result, the eBay listing does not claim the painting is an authentic Haring. Instead, buyers will bid on “an original painting on board from the 1980s in a remarkable likeness and style of a Keith Haring, with a very interesting story & provenance.”

The unsigned painting is on the back of a piece of wood paneling and shows a yellow stick figure holding aloft a red heart. The word “hope” is printed within the heart’s outlines. Thick squiggles radiate outward, a Haring trademark.

Ed Oswald said he discovered the painting four years ago in the attic of relatives who knew Haring from childhood and bought the piece at auction in the 1980s. He said he immediately thought it to be Haring’s work.

But when he tried selling it as such in April 2005, his cousin said the painting was a fake.

“I don’t know the origins of the thing. I just know what it’s not,” Kermit Oswald said on Friday.

Told the starting bid was US$0.99, he gave a hearty laugh and quipped: “I hope it closes at that. That would be fair.”

If deemed authentic, the painting could be worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, said Norb Novocin, whose Delaware-based company, Estate Auctions Inc, is handling the 10-day auction.

Haring, who grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch country, died in 1990 of AIDS at age 31. His work is marked by colorful geometric shapes, bold lines and recurring motifs such as radiating babies, animals and flying saucers.

Ed Oswald said he was thrilled when he found the painting but now just wants to be rid of it.

“As far as my wife and I are concerned, it’s just a piece of art that looks like something he could have done and that’s it,” he said. “It’s just time to let it go.”

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