Keith Haring

Keith Haring was born on May 4, 1958 in Reading, Pennsylvania, and was raised in nearby Kutztown, Pennsylvania. He developed a love for drawing at a very early age, learning basic cartooning skills from his father and from the popular culture around him, such as Dr. Seuss and Walt Disney.  Upon graduation from high school in 1976, Haring enrolled in the Ivy School of Professional Art in Pittsburgh, a commercial arts school. 

He soon realized that he had little interest in becoming a commercial graphic artist and, after two semesters, dropped out. While in Pittsburgh, Haring continued to study and work on his own and in 1978 had a solo exhibition of his work at the Pittsburgh Arts and Crafts Center. Later that same year, Haring moved to New York City and enrolled in the School of Visual Arts (SVA). In New York, Haring found a thriving alternative art community that was developing outside the gallery and museum system, in the downtown streets, the subways and spaces in clubs and former dance halls. Here he became friends with fellow artists like Kenny Scharf and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Haring was swept up in the energy and spirit of this scene and began to organize and participate in exhibitions and performances at Club 57 and other alternative venues. Haring was drawn to the public and participatory nature of Christo’s work, and by Andy Warhol’s unique fusion of art and life, so that Haring was determined to devote his career to creating a truly public art.  

As a student at SVA, Haring experimented with performance, video, installation and collage, while always maintaining a strong commitment to drawing. In 1980, Haring found a highly effective medium that allowed him to communicate with the wider audience he desired, when he noticed the unused advertising panels covered with matte black paper in a subway station. He began to create drawings in white chalk upon these blank paper panels throughout the subway system. 

Between 1980 and 1985, Haring produced hundreds of these public drawings in rapid rhythmic lines, sometimes creating as many as forty “subway drawings” in one day. This seamless flow of images became familiar to New York commuters, who often would stop to engage the artist when they encountered him at work. The subway became, as Haring said, a “laboratory” for working out his ideas and experimenting with his simple lines.

Between 1980 and 1989, Haring achieved international recognition and participated in numerous group and solo exhibitions. His first solo exhibition in New York was held at the Westbeth Painters Space in 1981. In 1982, he made his Soho gallery debut with an immensely popular and highly acclaimed one-man exhibition. During this period, he also participated in renowned international survey exhibitions such as Documenta 7 in Kassel; the São Paulo Biennial; and the Whitney Biennial. Haring completed numerous public projects in the first half of the 80’s as well, ranging from an animation for the Spectacolor billboard in Times Square, designing sets and backdrops for theaters and clubs, developing watch designs for Swatch and an advertising campaign for Absolut vodka; and creating murals worldwide.

In April 1986, Haring opened the Pop Shop, a retail store in Soho selling T-shirts, toys, posters, buttons and magnets bearing his images. Haring considered the shop to be an extension of his work and painted the entire interior of the store in an abstract black on white mural, creating a striking and unique retail environment. The shop was intended to allow people greater access to his work, which was now readily available on products at a low cost. The shop received criticism from many in the art world, however Haring remained committed to his desire to make his artwork available to as wide an audience as possible, and received strong support for his project from friends, fans and mentors including Andy Warhol.

Haring was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988. In 1989, he established the Keith Haring Foundation, its mandate being to provide funding and imagery to AIDS organizations and children’s programs, and to expand the audience for Haring’s work through exhibitions, publications and the licensing of his images. Haring enlisted his imagery during the last years of his life to speak about his own illness and generate activism and awareness about AIDS. Keith Haring died of AIDS related complications at the age of 31 on February 16, 1990. A memorial service was held on May 4, 1990 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, with over 1,000 people in attendance. 


Selected Solo Exhibitions

2016 TEFAF Maastricht, SmithDavidson Gallery, Maastricht, The Netherlands.

2015 Keith Haring: The Political Line Kunsthal Rotterdam, The Netherlands.

2015 Keith Haring: Pace Prints, New York, USA.

2015 Keith Haring: The Political Line de Young, San Francisco, USA.

2013 Keith Haring and the Pop World: Retrospect Nakamura Museum, Yamanashi, Japan 

2013 Keith Haring: The Political Line Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris France 

2013 Keith Haring: The Political Line/Grands Formats Le CENTQUATRE, Paris, France 

2012 Love Pop! Itami City Museum of Art, Itami City, Hyogo, Japan

2012 Keith Haring: 1978-1982, The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York, USA.

2012 Pisa Mural Restoration Commemoration, Pisa, Italy.

2011 Keith Haring 1978-1982, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.

2011 The Hieroglyphics of Keith Haring, Musee en Herbe, Paris, France

2010 Keith Haring: A New Dimension, Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, New Jersey,  USA.

2010 Keith Haring 1978-1982, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna, Austria

2010 The Keith Haring Show, SOMA Museum of Arts, Seoul, Korea

2008 Keith Haring Retrospective, Museum of Contemporary Art, Lyon, France

2008 Keith Haring: Two Sculptures, UNAIDS, Geneva, Switzerland

2006 Keith Haring: POP Haring, Symbols and Icons Editions on paper from the Estate of Keith Haring–Singapore Tyler Print Institute, Singapore

2005 Keith Haring: Urban Memory, Fundacion ICO, Madrid, Spain

2005 Five Keith Haring Sculptures, Somerset House, London, England

2005 The Keith Haring Show La Triennale di Milano, Milan, Italy

2005 The Characters of Keith Haring, Children’s Museum of the Arts, New York, New York, USA

2005 Keith Haring: New Wave Aztec, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, New York, USA

2003 Keith Haring, Centro Cutural Banco do Brasil, Sao Paulo, Brazil

2002 Keith Haring: Heaven and Hell, Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

2001 Keith Haring Sculptures, Rome, Italy

2001 Keith Haring: Heaven and Hell, Museum fur Neue Kunst/ZKM, Karlsruhe, Germany

2000 Keith Haring: the SVA Years, School of Visual Arts, New York, New York, USA

2000 Keith Haring: Sculptures on the Kurfürstendamm, Berlin Ludwig Forum, Aachen, Germany

1999 Keith Haring in Pisa, Palazzo Lanfranchi, Pisa, Italy

1998 Keith Haring: A RetrospectiveMuseum of Contemporary Art, Miami, Florida. Also in San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco and Musee des Beaux-Arts, Montreal, Canada

1997 Complete Editions on Paper, Kunsthalle, Cologne, Germany. Also in Historisches Museum der Pfalz-Speyer, Speyer, Germany and Kunsthalle, Dresden, Germany

1997 Keith Haring: A Retrospective Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City, Complete Editions on Paper. Also in Museum Bochum, Leipzig, Germany and Museum der Bildenden, Leipzig, Germany

1997 The 10 Commandments, Bruderkirche and Museum Fridericianum, Kassel, Germany

1997 Keith Haring: A Retrospective, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia

1993 One Person Show Queens Museum, New York, USA

1993 Keith Haring: A Retrospective, Mitsukoshi Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan

1991 Haring, Disney, Warhol, Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, USA

1990 Keith Haring: Future Primeval, Queens Museum, New York, USA

1989 One Person Show, Casa Sin Nombre, Santa Fe, USA

1986 One Person Show, Dag Hammarskjold Plaza Sculpture Garden, New York, USA

1986 Art in the Park, Whitney Museum of American Art, Stamford, USA

1986 One Person Show, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

1985 One Person Show, Museum of Contemporary Art, Bordeaux, France

1982 One Person Show, Rotterdam Arts Council, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

1980 One Person Show, Westbeth Painters Space, New York, USA

1980 One Person Show, P.S. 122, New York, USA

1980 One Person Show, Club 57, New York, USA

1978 One Person Show, Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, Pittsburgh, USA


Born in Pennsylvania on May 4th, 1958

Died in New York on February 16th, 1990

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