Archer stages big gay art sale

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The Independent Online
JEFFREY ARCHER, the millionaire novelist and London mayoral hopeful, is preparing to outrage Middle England by staging an exhibition of explicit homoerotic paintings by the American graffiti artist Keith Haring.

The Tory peer, who recently made millions by selling his Andy Warhol art collection, is organising the sale of 100 drawings and prints - including images of erect penises and male masturbation - by the controversial artist. Several sculptures, including a bronze altar piece, featuring dancing characters, from the Church of St John the Divine in New York, will also go on show.

Elton John, Robbie Williams and All Saints are among the celebrities planning to attend the opening night of the exhibition next month. Williams has already bought several Warhols - including prints of Marilyn Monroe and the Beatles - from Lord Archer.

Haring began his career producing subway graffiti and won cult status when he died in 1990 at the age of 32 from an Aids related illness.

Lord Archer, a former deputy chairman of the Tory party, admits that the exhibition will "scandalise" traditionalists. However, he said: "The show must be a genuine look at a very great artist and to refuse to show some controversial pieces would be wrong. I do not believe in censorship."

The exhibition, at the Peter Gwyther Gallery on Bruton Street, will trace Haring's progression from graffiti to hip hop, culminating in lucrative gallery pieces produced shortly before his death. Proceeds from the first night will go to the Terrence Higgins Trust, which funds research into HIV. The show was set up when the Keith Haring Foundation - a charitable organisation established by the artist before his death - approached Lord Archer following his sale of Warhols.

Haring, a Warhol protege, became one of the most energetic and charismatic figures in the New York art world in the 1980s. When he was diagnosed with Aids in 1988, he described his work as a "kind of quest for immortality". "You're making these things that you know have a different kind of life," he said. "They don't depend on breathing, so they'll last longer than any of us will."

Haring was deeply populist and said he would rather have his designs reproduced on children's T-shirts than bought by rich collectors. He said his approach to art was "taking it off the pedestal ... giving it back to the people". In 1986, he opened the Pop Shop in New York to sell his work, in an attempt to make it more "accessible".

Since his death, however, his work has become increasingly collectable and Charles Saatchi is among those keen to buy from the London show next month.

Lord Archer has been collecting art for 20 years and displays work by Monet, Lowry and Picasso in his penthouse apartment overlooking the Thames. He does not own any Harings himself but said he was interested by his work.

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