It started out as a white refrigerator door in a SoHo apartment, but in the 1990s it was anything but plain. It was covered in the graffiti tags and broad marker signatures of the tenant’s famous friends in the apartment. “Madonna loves Keith,” read an inscription.
Yes, this Madonna. The tenant was artist Keith Haring, a star of the SoHo art scene who partied with Andy Warhol and graffiti artists like LA II (real name Angel Ortiz) and Fab Five Freddy (Fred Brathwaite), who both signed the fridge. Also on the door are the letters JM, which auctioneer Arlan Ettinger speculated in an interview that they belonged to Jean-Michel Basquiat, the downtown artist who became a megawatt celebrity. (Ettinger said he tried to verify the Basquiat signature, but “there is no way to absolutely confirm” whether he is writing or not.)
Ettinger, who will be selling the refrigerator door at Guernsey on Wednesday, said the door will serve as Haring’s guest register. “It seemed like everyone who was someone showed up there,” he said, “and you logged on to that refrigerator door. It’s not pretty, but it’s from this moment, from this time. It reflects a certain spirit, a creativity that’s alive today when you think of the people who were there – Madonna and a long, long list of artists. “
Ettinger said the owner, a yoga instructor in California, insisted on privacy so much that he said he didn’t even know her name. He said his contract to sell the door was with a friend of the owner who forwarded an email describing how the owner found the apartment on Broome Street – she was on The Village Voice in 1990 seen an ad for a “spacious railroad apartment” came up with “this amazing refrigerator covered in Haring-era graffiti.” The walls had also been covered once, but she said the landlord had repainted them.
She returned home one muggy day to learn that the refrigerator had failed and was being removed. The delivery men had left it on the street to pick it up with the rubbish.
“I drove outside,” said the email. “Our old friend, the Haring refrigerator, was lying on its side in the back alley. The door slid off the refrigerator easily. I took it upstairs while my roommate was pulling back the smaller top freezer door. “
When she moved to California in 1993, she carted the door to her parents’ home in Washington and stored it in her attic, where she stayed until around 2010 when her mother sent her to live with her.
Andy Warhol, whose signature is also on the refrigerator door, shows another item in the auction: a moose head that he owned. The auction will be conducted online through Liveauctioneers.com and Invaluable.com and by telephone from Guernsey’s. Ettinger’s estimate for the refrigerator door is hundreds of thousands of dollars.