10 things to know about... Keith Haring
The Artsper team regularly looks over the life and works of one artist, exploring their legacy through 10 facts. Even though it is a completely subjective retrospective, this is the occasion for you to rediscover the artist’s work and learn something new about their life. This week, we are exploring the life and artworks of Keith Haring.
1. Keith Haring was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, in 1956.
Haring was born in 1956 in Reading, Pennsylvania, and was raised in the conservative Kutztown, Pennsylvania. His love for art started at a young age, when he learned drawing skills from his father and cartoons.
2. His art career began in the New York subway.
In the early 1980s, Haring made himself known by drawing in the New York subway with a piece of white chalk. It was in the underground arts scene in New York that Haring found a thriving community of creatives, including artists, musicians and performance artists.
3. His first solo exhibition in New York was held in 1981.
Haring’s first ever solo exhibition in New York was held in the Westbeth Painters Space, an artist community and nonprofit housing complex. The exhibition was titled “Des Refusés: New Drawings by Keith Haring Black-Blue Prints.”
4. He was an activist from a young age.
Keith Haring is known for his activism, particularly during the AIDS epidemic during the 1980s. His desire to bring change to the world began in his pre-teen years, when him and his friend Kermit Oswald scribbled anti-Nixon graffiti around their conservative rural town.
5. He also produced sculptures.
Lesser known than his two-dimensional artworks are Keith Haring’s sculptural works. Continuing his signature style with bright colors and graphic-style drawings, this is an example of numerous sculptures that Haring produced throughout his career.
6. He was friends with Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Keith Haring met Jean-Michel Basquiat at the Club 57 nightclub in New York City. They became close friends, and are now synonymous with the arts scene of 1980s New York.
7. Among Haring’s most important works is Crack is Wack.
Crack is Wack is one of the most significant Keith Haring artworks, and is located in Harlem, New York. The two-sided mural was influenced by the crack cocaine epidemic that peaked during the 1980s and its impact on communities in America.
8. His art dealer was an infamous art vandal.
Haring’s art dealer Tony Shafrazi, owner of New York Shafrazi Art Gallery, attracted attention in the art world in 1974. In protest against the Vietnam war, Shafrazi had entered the Museum of Modern Art in New York and spray-painted Picasso’s Guernica with the words “KILL ALL LIES” in red letters.
9. He wanted to make his art widely accessible.
Haring wanted to make his art as accessible as possible and opened his “Pop Shop” in SoHo, New York, selling various Keith Haring artworks, objects and posters. Haring declared: “I could earn more money if I just painted a few things and jacked up the price. My shop is an extension of what I was doing in the subway stations, breaking down the barriers between high and low art.”
10. He created the fresco of the Necker Hospital in Paris.
Keith Haring created the fresco of the Necker–Enfants Malades Hospital in Paris in 1987. The fresco fell into disrepair and was condemned by the hospital’s administrators, but was restored in 2017. After a short and brilliant career, marked by unique encounters, a strong commitment and works that became world famous, Haring died of complications related to AIDS in 1990, at the age of 31.
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