“Art should be something that liberates the soul, provokes the imagination and encourages people to go further"
Rising to prominence in the early 1980s, Keith Haring is an American artist renowned for his vivacious paintings, murals and his use of a distinctive pop graffiti technique. Drawing from traditional street art, Keith Haring’s artworks feature a combination of bold imagery and bright, contrasting colours that instantly grab the attention of viewers. Firmly believing that ‘art is for everybody’, Haring made his artwork as accessible as it is memorable, by creating art in both public spaces and at a range of affordable prices. Subsequently, during his lifetime Haring attracted a wide audience and became a household name whose artwork remains both instantly and globally recognisable.
Born in 1958 in Reading, Pennsylvania, Keith Haring was surrounded by a rich visual culture from a young age. Fascinated by popular cartoons created by Walt Disney and Dr. Seuss, Haring learned basic drawing skills from his father who worked as an amateur cartoonist. As he got older, Haring decided to pursue a career in graphic art. He studied briefly at the Ivy School of Professional Art in Pittsburgh before dropping out and realising that he had little interest in becoming a commercial artist.
Instead, Haring enrolled in the School of Visual Arts in New York and on moving to the East Village in the city’s bustling centre, he discovered a burgeoning artistic community developing outside established gallery and museum spaces. He soon immersed himself in the city's graffiti culture, befriending artists such as Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. These relationships, particularly that with Andy Warhol, proved to be a significant factor in his future success.
Following Haring’s graduation from the School of Visual Arts in 1980, the artist began participating in numerous group and solo exhibitions, garnering international attention. In 1982, Haring exhibited at the seventh edition of the esteemed Documenta exhibition in Kassel, alongside other prominent artists such as Marina Abramovich and Carl Andre. By 1983, his international reach saw no bounds with Haring’s work featuring at both the São Paulo Biennial and the Whitney Biennial. Until this death in 1990, Haring would continue to exhibit across the globe.
In April 1986, Haring opened the Pop Shop, a retail store in New York that sold toys, posters and other commercial items bearing his designs. Considering the shop as an extension of his work, Haring believed that art should be accessible to everyone, and wanted his work to be readily available at affordable prices. To offer even greater accessibility to his art, from 1982 to 1989, Haring also created over fifty public artworks, ranging from murals to paintings and present in capitals around the world.
In 1988, Haring was unfortunately diagnosed with AIDS and for the remainder of his life, dedicated himself and his artwork to generating awareness of the illness. Establishing The Keith Haring Foundation as a result, Haring continues to provide funding and imagery to both AIDS organisations and children’s education, even today. Haring passed in 1990 due to AIDS related complications, at the tender age of 31. Since his death, Haring’s legacy has continued to prosper, with collections all over the world continuing to celebrate and exhibit his art.