Keith Haring and Japan

By Nakamura Keith Haring Collection

Keith Haring visited Japan in 1983 and 1988. The trips inspired him so much that he opened his second Pop Shop in Tokyo. Although Pop Shop Tokyo was short-lived, it made a tremendous impact on Japanese pop culture. 

Documentary Photography by Yoshikuni KawashimaOriginal Source: Nakamura Keith Haring Collection

February, 1983

Keith Haring hosted his first exhibition in Japan at Galerie Watari (Tokyo) in this year – the first time he visited Japan.

Documentary Photography by Yoshikuni KawashimaOriginal Source: Nakamura Keith Haring Collection

On this trip to Japan, Haring was accompanied by young graffiti writer Angel Ortiz known as LA2 (LA II, Little Angel 2), whose talent Haring had discovered, and together they painted a mural on an inside and outside wall of ON SUNDAYS, located next to galerie Watari.

Documentary Photography by Yoshikuni KawashimaOriginal Source: Nakamura Keith Haring Collection

Leaving History Behind

This building was dismantled in 2018 to preserve a mural.It is well known that you can see the place you’ve searched as if you are walking by using the Street View function in Google Maps, but by using the Time Machine function, you can also view the cityscape using images taken in the past.Haring’s mural became a place of expression for a variety of artists after that. Go ahead and follow these changes for yourself.

Pop Shop by Keith HaringOriginal Source: Nakamura Keith Haring Collection

July, 1986

Accepting an offer to open Pop Shop Tokyo, Haring came to Japan twice for meetings and to survey the site for the shop.

Pins from Pop Shop Tokyo by Keith HaringOriginal Source: Nakamura Keith Haring Collection

Pop Shop

To communicate with as many people as possible through art, in 1986, Keith Haring opened his first Pop Shop in downtown, New York, where his original goods were sold and 2 years later a second Pop Shop in Tokyo. His original goods, embodying his various messages and concepts, one can call them extension of his art.

Documentary Photography by Keith HaringOriginal Source: Nakamura Keith Haring Collection

May and October, 1987

Haring carried out projects in many places as he traveled the world in the second half of the 1980’s. Haring came to Japan twice in this year.In May, he participated in a Japanese art object competition as a judge, had a project meeting in Tama, and headed to Paris.In October, he returned to Japan from London, and held a workshop for children in Tama. He then worked on preparations for the opening of Pop Shop Tokyo, scheduled to open early the following year.

Documentary Photography by Keith HaringOriginal Source: Nakamura Keith Haring Collection

Collaborating with Children

In Octorber 1987, he held a workshop with children in the outer area of Tokyo, in Tama City. The event helped commemorate the opening of the Tama City Combined Cultural Center (Parthenon Tama), which was constructed as a palace of art in Tama New Town ― the largest housing development of postwar Japan. Several hundred children between the ages of 6 and 8 gathered in the outdoor event space. Keith’s human figures were painted on six panels, and the children used them as the base to create their own drawings. Another project was called the Sound-Fruit-Project: Wooden objects were designed by Keith, upon which children hung their hand-painted bells, everyone contributing their prayers for peace. This work is currently owned by the Tama City Cultural Foundation.

Documentary Photography by Keith HaringOriginal Source: Nakamura Keith Haring Collection

Gallery of Freedom by Keith HaringOriginal Source: Nakamura Keith Haring Collection

“Peace” and “My Town” (1987, Property of the Tama City Cultural Foundation)

Exhibition at the Nakamura Keith Haring Collection (2017)

Bowl from Pop Shop Tokyo by Keith HaringOriginal Source: Nakamura Keith Haring Collection

"We got to the ceramic manufacture’s studio (in Nagoya) around six o’clock. We were supposed to take two hours to choose the shapes of rice bowls I wanted to do and paint some samples. I end up taking about four hours, but I painted four small rice bowls and two large ones (with kids). Some I did with figurative patterns that made the rice bowls look more African or Indian than Japanese, and some I did with real simple fish paintings. The more I painted the more I learned how to control the glaze pigment on the clay surface, the more “into it” I got, the less I wanted to leave.*1

Keith Haring

Documentary Photography by Akira KishidaOriginal Source: Nakamura Keith Haring Collection

January and July, 1988

Haring visited Japan in this year for the opening of Pop Shop Tokyo, scheduled for January 30. He traveled to Hiroshima when visiting Japan in July.

Documentary Photography by Akira KishidaOriginal Source: Nakamura Keith Haring Collection

Haring responding to an interview held in front of shipping containers that were to become the as-yet unfinished Pop Shop Tokyo.

Slippers from Pop Shop Tokyo by Keith HaringOriginal Source: Nakamura Keith Haring Collection

We decide to go with tradition and have people remove their shoes before entering the shop. I design Keith Haring Slippers, which they wear in the shop.*2

Keith Haring

Invitation to Opening Party of Pop Shop Tokyo by Keith HaringOriginal Source: Nakamura Keith Haring Collection

Paper Bag from Pop Shop Tokyo by Keith HaringOriginal Source: Nakamura Keith Haring Collection

Plastic Bag from Pop Shop Tokyo by Keith HaringOriginal Source: Nakamura Keith Haring Collection

Fan from Pop Shop Tokyo by Keith HaringOriginal Source: Nakamura Keith Haring Collection

I wanna guard you (1988) by Keith HaringNakamura Keith Haring Collection

Hiroshima 5.-6. August 88 by Keith HaringOriginal Source: Nakamura Keith Haring Collection

Hiroshima Peace Project

In August 1988, there was a project proposed to create a mosaic drawing on the walls of the Hiroshima City Honkawa Elementary School, located on the opposite shore of Ota River (Honkawa), which flows alongside the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. Unfortunately, the mural was unable to be realized, but the same year, Haring was commissioned to create the poster for the Hiroshima Peace Concert, “Peace is the best, no doubt about it!!”,
He visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, witnessed the tragedy and wrote in his diary, “This must never happen again.”



”He was very eager and asked me to guide him around every morning, and he even wanted to bring his own materials for the mural project.”
-Yoshiaki Hanazawa of Picasso Gabo who attended to Haring for 3 days

Credits: Story

All Keith Haring Artwork ©The Keith Haring Foundation

Special Thanks to

Tama City Cultural Foundation
Mr. Takayuki Wakui
Mr. Makoto Takahashi

*1: John Gruen, Keith Haring: The Authorized Biography, Thames & Hudson, 1991, p.181
*2: October 27, 1987 from Keith Haring Journals

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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