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Keith Haring

“Art should be something that liberates your soul, provokes the imagination and encourages people to go further.”

Keith Haring was a social activist and artist who wasn’t afraid to depict and publicize controversial topics such as war, sexuality, life, and death with his art. Haring used New York City - the walls, stations, and buildings - as his canvas, creating masterpieces for the public eye. His signature cartoon style combined his outspoken political and social activism place Haring amongst the legends in the art world.

Born May 4, 1958, in Reading, Pennsylvania, Haring grew up fascinated by the cartoon art of Walt Disney, Charles Schultz, and even Dr. Seuss. Haring’s father also drew cartoons as a hobby in his free time, inspiring a young Haring to perhaps make his own one day. Eventually, as a grown man, he moved to New York City to enroll at the School of Visual Arts. It is there Haring found his artistic peers and social niche and became acquainted with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kenny Scharf, among other individuals in the underground art scene.

Keith Haring thrived off the energy that premediated through the streets of New York City and found success underneath them. The subways became his studio, where Haring would draw on the empty black advertising panels on the walls. He often drew in the day time and accumulated a crowd of commuters in the process; people loved to watch Haring draw. He was later arrested for vandalism many times due to his work environment preferences. Haring’s arrests could be seen on the television, in newspapers, and spread through word-of-mouth by his many commuter audience members; All this publicity led him to his first solo exhibition in 1981.

Throughout the 1980s, Haring traveled the world to show his work. He collaborated with Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and many other artists and performers. His work became more valuable, yet he still wanted to keep it all accessible; he wanted anyone and everyone to be able to buy or enjoy his artwork. With this in mind, Haring opened up the ‘Pop Shop’ in SoHo, New York City in 1986 where he sold posters, t-shirts and other products featuring his signature designs. In addition to this, he hosted many open admissions and free art workshops for children and made paintings and sculptures specifically for schools and hospitals. In 1989, he created the Keith Haring Foundation to raise AIDS awareness and aide research.

Keith Haring died of AIDS-related complications on February 16, 1990, at age 31, however his deceptively simple art with deep meaning continues to live on. His art is still exhibited internationally in institutions including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Tate Liverpool, Guggenheim, New York and many more. Martin Lawrence Galleries are proud owners of select Keith Haring masterpieces.