Keith Haring

July 6 – November 5, 2017

‘‘He was the first truly public artist, in the fullest sense of the word, his art and his life changed our conceptions of art and life in the 20th century.’’ Andy Warhol

Keith Haring was born in Pittsburgh, in 1958. He started drawing at the age of four. He drew incessantly, inspired first by the Walt Disney cartoons and Batman comics as a child and by the sounds of Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith and the Grateful Dead in his adolescence.

After three years at the Pittsburgh School of Visual Arts, he moved to New York in 1978 to continue his studies. Like the Futura 2000 graffiti artists and Jean-Michel Basquiat, with whom he became a close friend, Keith Haring spent his nights in the subway covering its billboards and trains with his drawings and paintings. He participated in the first show to be uniquely dedicated to Street Art, at Club 57 in 1980. After this he presented his works in a series of shows all over the world and wall-paintings in the New York subway, although he stopped doing them in 1986 having been repeatedly arrested for urban vandalism even when the police officers in question knew of his art and were fans of his work.

Jean-Michel Basquiat introduced him to Andy Warhol, another Pittsburgh native, or Andy Mouse as Haring liked to call him. In spite of his 1984 show at the famous Leo Castelli gallery, best known for showcasing the works of the American Avant-garde of the fifties and the Pop Art movement, Keith Haring decided to follow the example of Warhol’s Factory by opening his own Pop Shop merchandising boutique at 292 Lafayette Street. His friends Madonna and Grace Jones were the guardian angels of this unique address where the artist showed he had no fear of the democratisation of his art.

He was in Japan when he learned of the death of his friend Jean-Michel Basquiat on the 12 August 1988 after an overdose.On the flight home he noted that his skin was covered with marks which he immediately recognised as the symptoms of AIDS. With two years left to live he concentrated the time he had left on monumental public commissions, sculptures and wall-paintings, including the famous ‘‘The Crak is Wrak’’ on a handball court which sought to raise awareness amongst adolescents increasingly subject to the ravages of hard drug addiction. He created the Keith Haring Foundation to help children and support organisations in the fight against AIDS. Charity works were completed all over the globe, denouncing racism, apartheid, homophobia and discrimination. He worked in a frenzy right up to his last breathe, completing works with children from the Necker Hospital in Paris, New York orphanages and for the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty. He died in February 1990, he was just 31.