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Keith Haring, the Public’s Artist

Since we originally wrote this story about Keith Haring two years ago, I’ve moved to San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood with its abundant and ever-changing murals charged with socially impactful messages and bold imagery. I wonder whether Haring visited these same streets in the 1980s and how he might have left his mark on them.

Keith Haring Print, Art.com
The Marriage of Heaven And Hell, 1984 by Keith Haring

The Keith Haring Foundation was established in 1989 to preserve Haring’s artistic and philanthropic legacy through charitable contributions and the circulation of Haring’s art. A few years ago, the Foundation opened its archives to us to share more than sixty images only available here.

An artist of the people, Haring believed “the public has a right to art.” The world was his surface – he drew on everything from gallery and outdoor walls to subway stations to clothing. His conceptual work was accessible and unpretentious yet confrontational and often political, addressing major issues like poverty, HIV and apartheid.

Keith Haring, Art.com
Pop Shop (Radiant Baby)” by Keith Haring

Energized by the thriving alternative art scene that developed on New York City’s streets in the early 1980s, Haring found fame as a graffiti artist in subway stations and other highly visible public spaces. He quickly gained a reputation for his vivid colors, strong lines and iconic visual vocabulary.

Keith Haring Print, Art.com
Monkey Puzzle, 1988” by Keith Haring

By the mid 1980s, his work was the subject of numerous solo exhibitions, he’d painted murals around the world and opened his Pop Shop in New York’s NoLiTa neighborhood to make his art accessible to those who couldn’t afford his works sold in galleries. The friends he made, including artists Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol and Kenny Scharf, the time he spent at Club 57, and his open lifestyle inspired many of the works in The Keith Haring Collection.

Keith Haring Print, Art.com
Andy Mouse, 1985” by Keith Haring

As I stroll through the Mission District, I can easily imagine Keith Haring darting down Balmy Alley or into the 24th Street BART station to leave a bit of himself behind.

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