Who is Keith Haring?

Keith Haring, the street artist of 1980’s New York City, expressed all he could in his short life of 31 years, and left with us his hopes and dreams.

Untitled (people) (1985) by Keith HaringOriginal Source: Nakamura Keith Haring Collection


Why is it that even when people do not know his name, they can recognize his art?

Documentary Photography (1988) by Akira KishidaNakamura Keith Haring Collection

Keith Haring (1958-1990)

Keith Haring has become one of the most recognizable artists of the American art scene in the 1980s.

Subway Drawing (1981) by Keith HaringNakamura Keith Haring Collection

He started his work through the Subway Drawings, a series of chalk drawings on matte black pieces of paper, which functioned to cover up unused advertisement panels in the corridors and platforms of subway stations. His drawings were easily understood, accessible, and relatable, becoming enormously popular among the subway commuters and making Keith Haring well-known throughout New York City.

Documentary Photography (1988) by Akira KishidaNakamura Keith Haring Collection

Not only was he recognized for his drawings, paintings, and sculptures, but he also became very active in a variety of media, spanning from the creation of costumes and stage designs, poster designs, record sleeve designs, and to the opening of his Pop Shop selling Keith Haring merchandise and goods. He even, briefly, opened his sensational Pop Shop Tokyo in Japan. He was also involved in creating murals, as well as organizing children’s art workshops all over the world.

Slience=Death (1989) by Keith HaringNakamura Keith Haring Collection

Keith Haring was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988 and established the Keith Haring Foundation the following year. Until he died in 1990 at the age of 31, Haring was actively involved in AIDS-related campaigns and charities for social causes through his art. Today, the foundation continues his artistic and philanthropic legacy from his studio New York City.

Untitled (people) (1985) by Keith HaringOriginal Source: Nakamura Keith Haring Collection

Untitled, 1985

Untitled with its large scale four-meter width is covered with numerous bodies with no set direction, filling the canvas like a pattern. Figures, painted only with bold, black lines, have no eyes or noses and spread across the painting in vibrant colors like pink, orange, and blue.  

On heavy muslin, figures crampedly painted on top of each other, and it looks as though each of them is trying to move forward or reposition themselves to a less crowded space.

The piled-up figures evoke the intersectionality of our humanity that we are always connected, touching, helping, and at times hurting each other. The drawn characters seem to have no gender, race, or culture--just drawn as a pattern as if to express human equality.

Altarpiece: The Life of Christ (1990) by Keith HaringOriginal Source: Nakamura Keith Haring Collection

Altarpiece: The Life of Christ 1990

This work was completed a few weeks before Haring’s death on February 16, 1990. Editions of this piece are housed in 9 different locations, including churches and museums across the globe. Perhaps the most symbolic of these is still displayed on the altar of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where his memorial service was held. Accepting his fate, Haring created this final work to impart his lasting legacy of hope, peace, and eternity.

Three panels of bronze with white gold leaf patina make up the over-two-meter-wide altarpiece. Under the cross carved on the upper part of the middle piece, numerous arms extend; the arms hold the baby, and angels fly around them.

Haring confidently cuts into the bronze and carves people excitedly raising their fists. One might get the impression that while Haring's consumed body and spirit were nearing death, this creation of this piece was as if his last chance to celebrate life.

Credits: Story

All Keith Haring Artwork ©Keith Haring Foundation

Credits: All media
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