Keith Haring

Keith Haring was an American artist and social activist known for his illustrative depictions of figures and symbols. His white chalk drawings could often be found on blank poster canopies in public spaces and the New York subway. “I don’t think art is propaganda,” he once said. “It should be something that liberates the soul, provokes the imagination and encourages people to go beyond. It celebrates humanity instead of manipulating it.” Born on May 4, 1958 in Reading, Pennsylvania, he grew up in nearby Kutztown, where he was inspired to draw from an early age by the cartoons of Walt Disney and his father, who was an amateur cartoonist. After briefly studying commercial art in Pittsburgh, Haring came across a show of Pierre Alechinksy’s works and decided to pursue a career in fine art. He moved to New York in the late 1970s to attend the School of Visual Arts and soon became immersed in the city’s graffiti culture. In the mid-1980s, he befriended fellow artists Andy Warhol, Kenny Scharf and Jean-Michel Basquiat, and collaborated with celebrities such as singer Grace Jones. Diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 1988, Haring’s prodigious career was brief and he died of AIDS-related complications on February 16, 1990 at the age of 31. Before his death, Haring established the Keith Haring Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to raising awareness of the disease through art and outreach programs. Throughout his career, Haring made his art widely available through the placement of his murals, as well as through Pop Shop, Haring’s own storefront that used to sell his memorabilia. The artist’s mural Crack is Wack (1986) can still be seen. today on a retaining wall along FDR Drive in Manhattan. Haring’s works can be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.