Who is Keith Haring?
American artist Keith Haring, born on 4 May 1958 in Pennsylvania, emerged from the graffiti scene in 1980s New York. Thanks to his father, who taught him basic cartooning skills, Haring discovered his love of drawing at an early age.
From 1976 Haring studied at the Ivy School of Professional Art in Pittsburgh, a school for commercial art. After two semesters, however, he dropped out because he had no interest in becoming a commercial artist. Instead, he continued his self-study as an artist and had his first solo exhibition of his work at the Pittsburgh Arts and Crafts Center in 1978.
That same year, Keith Haring moved to New York, where he enrolled at the School of Visual Arts. In New York, Haring encountered a burgeoning alternative art scene that developed on the streets of downtown, in the underground and in spaces of clubs and former dance halls. He became acquainted with the emerging artists Kenny Scharf and Jean-Michel Basquiat, as well as musicians, performance artists and graffiti writers of the scene. He began organising exhibitions and performances at alternative venues like Club 57.
What are Haring's "Subway Drawings"?
Haring's works are inspired by Robert Henri's manifesto "The Art Spirit", which emphasises the fundamental independence of the artist. Furthermore, he was influenced by the public and participatory works of Christo as well as Andy Warhols unique lived art to the extent that Haring decided to create public art.
Haring's work is best known for repetitive cartoon-like motifs, references to Pop Art and a linear style. During his studies in New York, Haring experimented with performance, video, installation and collage, but he always remained faithful to drawing. In the early years of his career, Haring gained popularity by making simple chalk drawings on blank billboards in the New York underground. This series of drawings, which he executed in great haste to avoid arrest, testifies to Haring's great talent for creating compositionally sophisticated and sensational works of art in an exceptionally short time frame. Between 1980 and 1985, Haring produced hundreds of these public drawings, sometimes up to forty "Subway Drawings" in one day. (possibly for exhibition?)
Keith Haring in the "25 Years" exhibition at MUCA Munich
In our MUCA "25 Years" exhibition (06.10.2022 - 10.09.2023) in Munich, an original "Subway Drawing" by Keith Haring was on display.
What is Haring's "Pop Shop"?
Haring then achieved international fame in the 1980s. He participated in renowned international survey exhibitions such as Documenta 7 in Kassel, the São Paulo Biennial and the Whitney Biennial. Furthermore, he realised numerous public artworks worldwide at this time, many of them for charities, hospitals and orphanages. For the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty in 1986, he created a mural with 900 children. He also created a public mural at the Berlin Wall three years before it fell.
His commercial projects included watch designs for Swatch and an advertising campaign for Absolut Vodka. He attracted criticism from wide circles of the artistic scene with the opening of his "Pop Shop" in Soho. Here he sold T-shirts, posters, buttons, toys and magnets with his images. Haring painted the interior entirely with abstract murals in black and white.
In 1989, shortly after his AIDS diagnosis, he founded the Keith Haring Foundation. With this, he wanted to raise general awareness of the disease. Keith Haring died in 1991 at the age of 31.