Keith Haring’s graffiti-like, minimalized figures have persisted even after the artist’s life was cut short due to complications with AIDS at the age of 31 in 1990. 85 of his works, which were relatable, comedic at times, and offered a comment on society, are now coming together for Haring’s first major exhibition in the UK. The exhibition, titled ‘Keith Haring,’ will offer a large range of works by the artist, many of which have never been seen in the UK, but his best-known characters will be there.
‘I remember most clearly an afternoon of drawing… All kinds of people would stop and look at the huge drawing and many were eager to comment on their feelings toward it. This was the first time I realised how many people could enjoy art if they were given the chance. These were not the people I saw in the museums or in the galleries but a cross-section of humanity that cut across boundaries.’ – Haring
In the 1980s, Haring’s work made a unique impression during the onset of the era of pop culture and spoke to the counterculture of the time. A lifelong advocate, Haring used his work as political commentary of the time and he also worked as an AIDS activist and educator during the AIDS epidemic, which continues to be part of his legacy. His signature figures, including barking dogs, flying saucers, and crawling babies, he promoted AIDS education, called for nuclear disbarment, made anti-drug campaigns (you probably remember his Crack is Wack murals), and anti-apartheid posters.
Haring worked alongside major artists of the time including Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat creating artworks that were far more accessible to viewers. He drew inspiration from abstract expressionists, pop artists, New York’s prolific graffiti artists, and Chinese calligraphy. ‘Keith Haring’ also highlights the performance side of Haring’s body of work. It will include works like his live chalk drawings that he created on the New York subway with artists and photographer Tseng Kwong Chi. Collaborations in set design with Madonna, Grace Jones, Vivienne Westwood, and Malcolm McLaren will also be highlighted.
Though his life and career were abbreviated, his works have continuously created an impact and a lasting style.
‘Keith Haring’ will run from June 14th through November 10th at Tate Liverpool. The exhibition is curated by Darren Pih, Tate Liverpool curator of exhibitions and displays and Tamar Hemmes, assistant curator for the Tate Liverpool. After exhibiting in Liverpool, the exhibition will then travel to BOZAR from December 5th through April 19th of next year, and finally to the Museum Folkwang from May 22nd, 2020 through September 20th, 2020.