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(1958 – 1990), USA

Keith Haring Biography

Keith Haring was an influential American Pop artist known for cartoon-like paintings, drawings, and murals typified by the boldness of their lines and the directness of their message. His short-lived career spanned just the 1980s but has a far-reaching legacy.

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As a figure of American 20th-century contemporary art, Keith Haring is important because, alongside artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kenny Scharf, he brought a new energy to the art of painting in the 1980s, reinvigorating the increasingly marginalised medium with elements of graffiti and popular culture.

The Pennsylvania-born artist spent time studying and developing his art in Pittsburgh before moving to New York in 1978. Haring came to the city on a scholarship to the School of Visual Arts, where he experimented with collage, installation, performance, and video. At the same time, he maintained a firm commitment to the drawing practice he began in his childhood.

Quickly swept up in the vibrant, experimental East Village art scene, Haring mingled amongst uninhibited and innovative compatriots like Scharf and Basquiat. Situated outside of the conventional gallery and museum system, the East Village scene emerged from backstreets, subways, clubs, and alternative art spaces like P.S. 122 and Club 57, where Haring held exhibitions.

Haring's influences also included older artists like Jean Dubuffet, Pierre Alechinsky, William Burroughs, and Christo. Not only valuing their individualism, in the case of Christo, Haring was greatly moved by the idea that art could reach all people, not just the elite. These influences are present in the hundreds of subway drawings Haring made between 1980 and 1985, in which rhythmic chalk lines cover subway stations' matte black advertising boards.

From his subway works, Haring developed motifs such as the iconic Keith Haring hearts, barking dogs, UFOs, and glowing babies. Compelled to create art that reaches an audience beyond the art elite, Haring made many public works throughout his career. An iconic example, especially since its restoration, is the Crack is Wack (1986) mural in East Harlem, which Haring made in response to the crack cocaine epidemic sweeping the poorer neighbourhoods of New York.

Haring's art can be found in public spaces worldwide, but the artist's burgeoning career, which exploded in the 1980s, was sadly cut short. Keith Haring died from AIDS-related complications in 1990 at the young age of 31.

Keith Haring's art legacy continues to be felt inside and outside of the gallery, from internationally popular Keith Haring clothing—including Keith Haring hoodies, T-shirts, and caps—to the work of the Keith Haring Foundation, which preserves and circulates his work while supporting not-for-profit organisations that assist children and HIV/AIDs-related causes.

Keith Haring Solo Exhibitions include:

Keith Haring, Tate Liverpool (2019); Keith Haring: Multiplexism, National Museum of History, Taipei (2015); Keith Haring and the Pop World: Retrospect, Nakamura Museum, Yamanashi (2013); Keith Haring: New Wave Aztec, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2004); Keith Haring: A Retrospective, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (1997); Keith Haring: Future Primeval, Queens Museum, New York (1990); Art in the Park, Whitney Museum of American Art, Stamford (1986); One Person Show, Museum of Contemporary Art, Bordeaux (1985).

Keith Haring Group Exhibitions include:

Art after Stonewall, 1969–1989, Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, Miami (2019); I, You, We, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2013); Pop Life: Art in a Material World, Tate Modern, London (2009); ART IN AMERICA: 300 Years of Innovation, National Art Museum of China, Beijing (2007); American Art in the Twentieth Century: Painting and Sculpture, Royal Academy, London (1993); Committed to Print, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (1988); Urban Kisses, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London (1982); New York/New Wave, P.S.1, New York (1981).

Michael Irwin | Ocula | 2020

Keith Haring Featured Artworks

Untitled by Keith Haring contemporary artwork
Keith HaringUntitled, 1983Acrylic on canvas
160 x 160 cm
Mimmo Scognamiglio Artecontemporanea Contact Gallery
Untitled by Keith Haring contemporary artwork
Keith HaringUntitled, 1981Oil on canvas
127 x 127 x 3.2 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery

Keith Haring Recent Exhibitions

Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, A line (a)round an idea Selected Works on Paper at Gagosian, Geneva
Closed
2 May–27 July 2019 Group Exhibition A line (a)round an idea Selected Works on Paper GagosianGeneva
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, Robert Fraser’s Groovy Arts Club Band at Gazelli Art House, London
Closed
11 January–23 February 2019 Group Exhibition Robert Fraser’s Groovy Arts Club Band Gazelli Art HouseLondon

Keith Haring In Related Press

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Keith Haring’s Iconic East Harlem Mural, “Crack Is Wack,” Is Back Related Press Keith Haring’s Iconic East Harlem Mural, “Crack Is Wack,” Is Back 30 October 2019, Hyperallergic

'I saw it, and I thought: that must be a Keith Haring!' exclaimed Alejandro Bonilla, Sr., a former arts student from the Bronx who walked past Haring's famous Crack Is Wack mural for the first time this week. Painted on both sides of a concrete handball court wall in Harlem River Park at 127th Street more than three decades ago, the mural has...

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A Monumental Keith Haring Mural in Amsterdam, Hidden for 3 Decades, Finally Sees Daylight Related Press A Monumental Keith Haring Mural in Amsterdam, Hidden for 3 Decades, Finally Sees Daylight 25 June 2018, Frieze

A monumental 12-metre-high mural by the late New York artist Keith Haring has recently been uncovered in Amsterdam–it’s the largest of its kind in Europe. After spending three decades in the darkness, it was finally revealed last week at a press conference in the city’s Market Quarter.

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Painting From the 1980s, When Brash Met Flash Related Press Painting From the 1980s, When Brash Met Flash 12 February 2017, The New York Times

In New York at the end of the 1970s, many people thought painting was all washed up. And if not washed up, it had to be abstract—the more austere, unemotional and geometric, the better. Then came the 1980s and a generation of young painters, like Julian Schnabel, David Salle, Eric Fischl, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, and...

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Threatened Keith Haring mural says a lot about how we value public art Related Press Threatened Keith Haring mural says a lot about how we value public art 19 August 2016, Apollo Magazine

The insatiable appetite of the property developer is a recurring theme in modern city life, making the dispute over the future of Keith Haring’s mural in a former Manhattan convent a story very much of our time, and simultaneously timeless. Painted in an evening in 1983 or ’84, when the building was home to a Catholic youth...

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