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Keith Haring

1958 — 1990

Keith Haring was a famous American graffiti artist, one of the main characters in the New York art scene in the 1980s.

He was born in Reading, spent his childhood in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. Keith Haring’s father, Allen, was an engineer and amateur cartoonist. In 1976 – 1978 Keith Haring studied at the Ivy School of Professional Art in Pittsburgh, but quickly lost interest in studying. In 1978, he exhibited for the first time at the Pittsburgh Art Center. There he also got acquainted with the works of Dubuffet, Pollock, Pierre Alechinsky and Mark Toby, listened to a lecture by Christo in 1978.

In the same 1978, Keith Haring moved to New York, where he entered the School of Visual Arts. In New York, he began to make his first graffiti – with white chalk on a black background of unoccupied billboards in the subway. In the early 80s, Haring quickly developed his own style – a silhouette drawing with a wide contour line – and a set of stable images: figures of people in expressive poses, barking dogs, hearts and etc. He was heavily influenced by the ideas of William Burroughs and Brion Gysin. Thanks to them, in particular, Haring began to supplement his drawings with text.

Since 1980 he has exhibited at the New York club Club 57. In 1982 he participated in the Documenta in Kassel and the Sao Paulo Biennale. In the 80s, a total of more than 100 Keith Haring exhibitions (both solo and group) took place. He has exhibited in several New York galleries, made murals in clubs and discos, decorations for MTV, for a large Live Aid concert in Philadelphia (1985). He painted walls in the Museums of Modern Art in Paris and Bordeaux, the Whitney Museums in New York and Minneapolis, in Washington, Melbourne, Sydney, Rio de Janeiro. In 1986 he painted graffiti on the Berlin Wall. In 1982, his first solo exhibition was held at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery in New York, in 1986 – a personal exhibition at the Stedelik Museum in Amsterdam.

Other famous New York artists of the 1980s – Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kenny Scharf, Futura – were his friends. In 1983, Haring became close to Andy Warhol and through him met Grace Jones, for whom he made stage costumes and painted her body before performances. Madonna, another of his friends, also performed in Haring’s costumes.

In 1986, Keith Haring opened a Pop Shop in New York, where his work was sold at low prices in the form of posters, printed T-shirts and souvenirs. The store closed in 2005.

Keith Haring died at the age of 31 from AIDS. Towards the end of his life, he often took part in charity projects, worked in hospitals and orphanages, and advocated for the rights of sexual minorities. Shortly before his death, in 1989, he founded the Keith Haring Foundation. The Foundation manages the artist’s legacy and funds AIDS and educational projects for disadvantaged children.

Keith Haring’s works are in 59 public collections in 15 countries – in particular, in LACMA, MoMA, Pompidou Center, Albertine, Ludwig Museums in Cologne and Budapest, Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Boijmans-van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam, Whitney Museum in New York, Art Institute of Chicago, Art Museum of Denver, Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, Museum of Modern Art in Sydney, National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.