May 18, 2018

Keith Haring's art on the street

Keith Haring’s impact on the art world and society as a whole is undeniable. He exploded onto the New York art scene in the 1980s and quickly became known and loved throughout the world for his unique style, powerful messages, and commitment to public works.

We missed Keith Haring’s 60th birthday on the 4th of May, but we figured it was better late than never to celebrate his career and legacy. Here’s why Keith Haring is beloved by all.

Keith’s iconic style

Keith achieved a great deal in his short career. His cartoonish figures often appeared simplistic but were imbibed with deep political and social meaning, often relating to drugs, sexuality, race, desire, and AIDS. The messages were designed to be easily comprehensible, so they too were often simplistic: consider “Crack is Wack” and “Silence=Death” for example.

Haring’s nonchalant attitude towards being arrested

There are countless anecdotes circulating the internet about Keith being arrested for graffitiing the New York subways, only for the hapless officer who brought him in to realise that most of the force was a fan of his work.

Photo: Reproduction of a mural by Keith Haring in el Macba, Barcelona

Keith Haring’s urge to make art accessible

Keith was often criticised throughout his career and, arguably, he ruffled the most feathers by opening his Pop Shop in 1986. The shop was designed to make his artwork accessible for all and reflected his magnificent “Art is for Everybody” approach.

His incredible work ethic

Whilst Keith’s career was short, he certainly made the most of it. In addition to the 50+ public works that he created, he also featured in more than 100 exhibitions and a heap of newspaper articles in the 1980’s. He was highly sought after as a collaborator and he made his mark on Hollywood, the art world, and the general public alike.

The Keith Haring Foundation

Following his AIDS diagnosis, Keith started the Keith Haring Foundation to ensure that his legacy would benefit others well into the future. Since 1989, the Foundation has provided generous grants to children’s charities, AIDS research, and AIDS education.

Keith’s love for children

Keith often ran workshops for children in museums and schools. On top of this, he created a number of public works for hospitals, charities, children’s day care centers, and orphanages and often made time to produce artwork for literacy programs. He also often collaborated with children during the creation of his works. More than 900 children contributed to his mural which celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty.

We the Youth is a mural created by Haring in collaboration with high school students, CityKids of New York and Brandywine Workshop in Philadelphia in the late 80s.  The project was meant to be temporary, but it has been around for decades.

Photo: Keith Haring’s mural “We The Youth” at 22nd and Ellsworth Streets in Philadelphia. Used by permission. Keith Haring artwork © Keith Haring Foundation

His ongoing impact on the art world

The Keith Haring Foundation has continued to exhibit his works and his popularity has not faded since his death in 1990. You can check out his current and upcoming exhibitions, as well as his impressive resume, on The Keith Haring Foundation website.