Keith Allen Haring (May 4, 1958 – February 16, 1990) was an
American artist whose pop art and graffiti-like work grew out of the
New York City
New York City street culture of the 1980s.
Haring's work grew to iconic popularity from his exuberant spontaneous
New York City
New York City subways – chalk outlines on blank black
advertising-space backgrounds – depicting radiant babies, flying
saucers, and deified dogs. After public recognition he created
larger scale works such as colorful murals, many of them
commissioned. His imagery has become a widely recognized visual
language. His later work often addressed political and societal
themes – especially homosexuality and
AIDS – through his own
1 Early life and education
2.1 Early work
2.2 International breakthrough
Keith Haring Foundation
7 Art market
7.1 Authentication issues
8 In popular culture
10 Further reading
11 External links
Early life and education
A mural by Haring in Barcelona
Keith Haring was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, on May 4, 1958. He was
raised in Kutztown, Pennsylvania, by his mother Joan Haring, and
father Allen Haring, an engineer and amateur cartoonist. His family
attended the United Church of God. He had three younger sisters,
Kay, Karen and Kristen. He became interested in art at a very early
age spending time with his father producing creative drawings. His
early influences included Walt Disney cartoons, Dr. Seuss, Charles
Schulz, and the Looney Tunes characters in The Bugs Bunny Show.
In his early teenage years, Haring was involved with the Jesus
Movement. He eventually left his religious background behind and
hitchhiked across the country, selling vintage T-shirts and
experimenting with drugs. He studied commercial art from 1976 to
1978 at Pittsburgh's Ivy School of Professional Art but lost interest
in it. He made the decision to leave after having read Robert
Henri's The Art Spirit (1923), which inspired him to concentrate on
his own art.
Haring had a maintenance job at the
Pittsburgh Center for the Arts and
was able to explore the art of Jean Dubuffet, Jackson Pollock, and
Mark Tobey. His most critical influences at this time were a 1977
retrospective of the work of
Pierre Alechinsky and a lecture by the
Christo in 1978. Alechinsky's work, connected to the
international Expressionist group CoBrA, gave him confidence to create
larger paintings of calligraphic images.
Christo introduced him to the
possibilities of involving the public with his art. His first
important one-man exhibition was in
Pittsburgh at the Center for the
Arts in 1978.
He moved to New York in 1978 to study painting at the School of Visual
Arts. He also worked as a busboy during this time at a nightclub
called Danceteria. He studied semiotics with
Bill Beckley as well
as exploring the possibilities of video and performance art.
Profoundly influenced at this time by the writings of William
Burroughs, he was inspired to experiment with the cross-referencing
and interconnection of images. In his junior/senior year, he was
behind on credits, because his professors could not give him credit
for the very loose artwork he was doing with themes of social
He first received public attention with his public art in subways
where he created white chalk drawings on a black, unused advertisement
backboard in the stations. Keith considered the subways to be his
"laboratory", a place where he could experiment and create his
artwork. Starting in 1980, he organized exhibitions at Club
57, which were filmed by the photographer Tseng Kwong Chi. Around
this time, "The Radiant Baby" became his symbol. His bold lines, vivid
colors, and active figures carry strong messages of life and
unity. He participated in the
Times Square Exhibition and drew
animals and human faces for the first time. That same year, he
photocopied and pasted provocative collages made from cut-up and
New York Post
New York Post headlines around the city. In 1981, he
sketched his first chalk drawings on black paper and painted plastic,
metal, and found objects.
By 1982, Haring had established friendships with fellow emerging
artists Futura 2000, Kenny Scharf, Madonna and Jean-Michel
Basquiat. He created more than 50 public works between 1982 and
1989 in dozens of cities around the world. He often used lines of
energy to emphasize kinetic movement, vitality, and euphoric
spirit. One of his early works in 1982 depicts two figures with a
radiant heart-love motif, which critics have interpreted as a boldness
in homosexual love and a significant cultural statement. His
"Crack is Wack" mural, created in 1986, is visible from New York's FDR
Drive. In 1989, he criticized the avoidance of social issues such
AIDS through a piece called "Rebel with Many Causes" that revolves
around a theme of "hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil".[citation
He got to know Andy Warhol, who was the theme of several of Haring's
pieces, including "Andy Mouse". His friendship with Warhol would prove
to be a decisive element in his eventual success. In December
2007, an area of the American Textile Building in the TriBeCa
New York City
New York City was discovered to contain a painting of
Haring's from 1979.
Haring painting a mural at the
Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, 1986
Sculpture by Haring in Dortmund, Germany
In 1984, Haring visited Australia and painted wall murals in Melbourne
(such as the 1984 'Detail-Mural at Collingwood College, Victoria') and
Sydney and received a commission from the National Gallery of Victoria
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art to create a mural which
temporarily replaced the water curtain at the National Gallery. He
also visited and painted in Rio de Janeiro, the Musée d'Art Moderne
de la Ville de Paris,
Minneapolis and Manhattan. He became
politically active, designing a Free South Africa poster in 1985. On
October 23, 1986 Keith was asked by the Checkpoint Charlie Museum to
create a mural on the Berlin Wall. The mural was 300 meters long and
depicted red and black interlocking human figures against a yellow
background. The colors were a representation of the German flag and
symbolized the hope of unity between East and West Germany. He was
interested in working with children and this inspired the project
Citykids Speak on Liberty, which involved 1,000 children collaborating
on a project for the centennial of the Statue of Liberty.
In April 1986
Pop Shop was opened in Soho and made Keith's work
readily accessible to purchase at reasonable prices. When asked
about the commercialism of his work, Haring said: "I could earn more
money if I just painted a few things and jacked up the price. My shop
is an extension of what I was doing in the subway stations, breaking
down the barriers between high and low art." By the arrival of Pop
Shop, his work began reflecting more socio-political themes, such as
AIDS awareness, and the crack cocaine epidemic. He
even created several pop art pieces influenced by other products:
Lucky Strike cigarettes, and Coca-Cola. In 1987 he
had his own exhibitions in Helsinki, Antwerp, and elsewhere. He also
designed the cover for the benefit album A Very
Special Christmas, on
which Madonna was included. In 1988 he joined a select group of
artists whose work has appeared on the label of Chateau Mouton
Haring also created public murals in the lobby and ambulatory care
Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center
Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center on Flushing
A rare video of Haring at work shows his energetic style. He
wrote: "I am becoming much more aware of movement. The importance of
movement is intensified when a painting becomes a performance. The
performance (the act of painting) becomes as important as the
When his friend
Jean-Michel Basquiat died of an overdose in New York
in 1988, he paid homage to him with his work A Pile of Crowns, for
Haring was openly gay and was a strong advocate of safe sex;
however, in 1988, he was diagnosed with AIDS. From 1982 to 1989, he
was featured in more than a 100 solo and group exhibitions as well as
produced more than 50 public artworks in dozens of charities,
hospitals, day care centers, and orphanages. He used his imagery
during the last years of his life to speak about his illness and to
generate activism and awareness about AIDS. In 1989, he was invited
by the Lesbian and
Gay Community Services Center to join a show of
site-specific artwork for the building at 208 West 13th Street. He
chose the second-floor men's room for his mural Once Upon a Time.
In June, on the rear wall of the convent of the Church of Sant'Antonio
(in Italian: Chiesa di Sant'Antonio abate) in
Pisa (Italy), he painted
the last public work of his life, the mural "Tuttomondo" (translation:
Keith Haring Foundation
In 1989, he established the
Keith Haring Foundation to provide funding
and imagery to
AIDS organizations and children's programs, and to
expand the audience for his work through exhibitions, publications and
the licensing of his images. The foundation's goal is to keep Keith
Haring's wishes and expand his heritage, crafts, art and goals by
providing grants and funding to nonprofit organizations that target
educating disadvantaged youths and informing individuals about HIV and
AIDS. It also supports arts and educational institutions by
funding exhibitions, educational programs, and publications. Haring
also entrusted the foundation with carrying on his legacy through
research and sharing his works and materials pertaining to his
He collaborated with Grace Jones, whom he had met through Andy Warhol.
In 1985, Haring and Jones worked together on the two live performances
Jones at the Paradise Garage, which
Robert Farris Thompson
Robert Farris Thompson has called
a "epicenter for black dance". Each time, Haring covered Jones' body
with graffiti. He also collaborated with fashion designers Vivienne
Westwood and Malcolm McLaren on their A/W 1983/84 Witches collection,
with his artwork covering the clothing which was most famously worn by
a pink-wigged Madonna for a performance of her song "Like a Virgin" on
the British pop-music programme Top of the Pops and the American TV
dance program Solid Gold. Haring also collaborated with David
Spada, a jewelry designer, to design the sculptural adornments for
Haring's work very clearly demonstrates many important political and
personal influences. Ideas about his sexual orientation are apparent
throughout his work and his journals clearly confirm its impact on his
work. Heavy symbolism speaking about the
AIDS epidemic is vivid in his
later pieces, such as Untitled (cat. no. 27), Silence=Death and his
sketch Weeping Woman. In some of his works—including cat. no.
27—the symbolism is subtle, but he also produced some blatantly
activist works. Silence=Death, which mirrors the
ACT UP poster and
uses its motto, is almost universally agreed upon as a work of
Haring died on February 16, 1990 of AIDS-related complications.
He (among others) is commemorated in the
AIDS Memorial Quilt.
As a celebration of his life, Madonna declared the first New York date
Blond Ambition World Tour
Blond Ambition World Tour a benefit concert for Haring's memory
and donated all proceeds from her ticket sales to
AIDS Project Los Angeles and amfAR; the act was documented
in her film Truth or Dare. Additionally, his work was featured in
several of Red Hot Organization's efforts to raise money for
AIDS awareness, specifically its first two albums,
Red Hot + Blue
Red Hot + Blue and
Red Hot + Dance, the latter of which used Haring's work on its cover.
Haring contributed to the New York New Wave display in 1981 and in
1982, had his first exclusive exhibition in the
Tony Shafrazi Gallery.
That same year, he took part in
Documenta 7 in Kassel, Germany, as
well as Public Art Fund's "Messages to the Public" in which he created
work for a Spectacolor Board in Times Square. He
contributed work to the
Whitney Biennial in 1983, as well as in the
São Paulo Biennial. In 1985, the CAPC in
Bordeaux opened an
exhibition of his works, and he took part in the Paris Biennial.
Since his death Haring has been the subject of several international
retrospectives. His art was the subject of a 1997 retrospective at the
Whitney Museum in New York, curated by Elisabeth Sussman. In 1996, a
retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia was the
first major exhibition of his work in Australia. In 2008 there was a
retrospective exhibition at the MAC in Lyon, France. In February 2010,
on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Haring's death, Tony
Shafrazi Gallery showed an exhibition containing dozens of works from
every stage of Haring's career. In March 2012, a retrospective
exhibit of his work, Keith Haring: 1978-1982, opened at the Brooklyn
Museum in New York. In April 2013, Keith Haring: The Political
Line opened at the Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and Le
Cent Quatre In November 2014, then at the
De Young Museum
De Young Museum in San
Haring's work is in major private and public collections, including
Museum of Modern Art
Museum of Modern Art and the
Whitney Museum of American Art
Whitney Museum of American Art in New
York City; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Art Institute of
Bass Museum in Miami; Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de
Ludwig Museum in Cologne; and the
Stedelijk Museum in
Amsterdam. He also created a wide variety of public works,
including the infirmary at Children's Village in Dobbs Ferry, New
York, and the second floor men's room in the Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual & Transgender Community Center in Manhattan, which was
later transformed into an office and is known as the Keith Haring
Haring was represented until his death by art dealer Tony
Shafrazi. Since his death in 1990, his estate has been
administered by the
Keith Haring Foundation. The foundation has a
twofold mission of supporting educational opportunities for
underprivileged children and financing
AIDS research and patient
care. The foundation is represented by Gladstone Gallery.
There is no catalogue raisonné for Haring; however, there is copious
information about him available on the estate's website and elsewhere,
enabling prospective buyers or sellers to research exhibition
history. In 2012, the
Keith Haring Foundation disbanded its
authentication board; that same year, it donated $1 million to
support exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art and
$1 million to
Planned Parenthood of New York City's Project
Street Beat. A 2014 lawsuit, filed by a group of nine art collectors
at the United States District Court for the Southern District of New
York, argued that the foundation's actions have "limited the number of
Haring works in the public domain, thereby increasing the value of the
Haring works that the foundation and its members own or sell."
In popular culture
The Boxers (1987), located near Potsdamer Platz, Berlin
Haring is the subject of a composition, Haring at the Exhibition,
written and performed by Italian composer
Lorenzo Ferrero in
collaboration with DJ Nicola Guiducci. The work combines excerpts from
popular chart music of the 1980s with samples of classical music
Lorenzo Ferrero and synthesized sounds. It was
featured at "The
Keith Haring Show", an exhibition which took
place in 2005 at the
Triennale di Milano.
In 2006, he was named by Equality Forum as one of their 31 Icons of
LGBT History Month.
In 2008, filmmaker Christina Clausen released the documentary The
Universe of Keith Haring. In the film, his legacy is "resurrected
through colorful archival footage and remembered by friends and
admirers such as artists
Kenny Scharf and Yoko Ono, gallery owners
Jeffrey Deitch and Tony Shafrazi, and the choreographer Bill T.
Madonna, who was friends with Haring during the 1980s, used his art as
animated backdrops for her 2008/2009 Sticky and Sweet Tour. The
animation is standard Haring, featuring his trademark blocky figures
dancing in beat to an updated remix of "Into the Groove".
Keith Haring: Double Retrospect is a monster sized jigsaw puzzle by
Ravensburger measuring in at 17 by 6 feet (5.2 by 1.8 m) with
32,256 pieces, breaking Guinness Book of World Records for the largest
puzzle ever made. The puzzle uses 32 pieces of his work and weighs 42
pounds (19 kg).
On May 4, 2012, on what would have been Haring's 54th birthday, Google
honored him in a
He designed the album cover for the A Very
Special Christmas music
compilation album which consists of a typical Haring figure holding a
baby. Its "Jesus iconography" is considered unusual in modern rock
Haring had a balloon in tribute to him at the 2008 Macy's Thanksgiving
Tim Finn wrote the song "Hit The Ground Running", on his album Before
& After, in memory of Keith Haring.
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Ravensburger Shatters Record With
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Keith Haring Foundation
Nakamura Keith haring collection (Museum of
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