Is that a fireplace or are you just glad to see me?

In late 1990 Manhattan Homes Inc. was contacted by an attorney for the estate of acclaimed artist Keith Haring who had died of AIDS related complications earlier that year. As many of you know, Mr. Haring, who started as a "subway artist", had become and remains a prominent figure in the international art scene, and an advocate for social issues as expressed through his work and the Keith Haring Foundation. His death was a great loss on many levels. (You can find an in-depth look at his life and work here).

Part of Mr. Haring's estate included an extraordinary Penthouse he had purchased just north of SoHo. It was a scissored duplex with a wonderful roof deck and a number of interesting upgrades made by the artist. One of the first people to see the apartment was a lovely woman working with my partner, James. She was an editor at Newsweek Magazine and no stranger to Mr. Haring's work, or for that matter, all things aesthetic (she would later go on to become Editor of Martha Stewart Living magazine). The improvements made by the artist were tasteful and well-crafted but one "improvement" was particularly personal in nature: the fireplace. The artist had decided to redo the mantel, legs and lintel of this fixture. After applying a composite he etched in numerous representations of what could most delicately be described as the body part exclusive to the male of our species, with each example surrounded by Haring's characteristic sunbeams. Our gal was unfazed and loved the apartment and a deal was struck. When it came time for the condo to be appraised a special issue arose. The unit had additional value because of its provenance, already a difficult factor to evaluate, but how could the appraiser incorporate the value of the fireplace? Mr. Haring's works now often sell north of $100,000, and this "sculpture" already had great value back then. The fireplace was part of the apartment and also part of the artist's body of work. The real estate appraiser was at a loss so our next call was to Christie's Auction House to come and make an appraisal. The final unit appraisal delivered to the bank contained 2 documents, the original appraiser's evaluation and stapled to that, the Christie's appraisal; and the loan was subsequently approved.

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