Keith Haring

About the Artist

Keith Haring in 1985. Photo by David Howard

Keith Haring in 1985.
Photo by David Howard

Keith Haring was an American street artist and activist, whose easily recognizable work has been inspirational to his admirers around the world.

Early Life and Education

Keith Haring was born in Reading, Pennsylvania in 1958 and raised in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. He was the oldest, and only son, of four siblings. Haring’s father was an engineer and amateur cartoonist, who inspired Haring to draw his own cartoons.
Haring went to the Ivy School of Professional Art in 1976, and studied commercial art for two years, but wanted to do more creative work than what was taught at the Ivy School. He moved to New York to attend the School of Visual Arts, where he enrolled in a class in semiotics, the study and use of signs and symbols, and went on to create a graphic language of his own, which influenced his later work.

Career

Haring drew hundreds of pictures on blank subway signs, gaining widespread attention and making his work accessible to the public. Haring’s bold designs, especially The Radiant Baby, became instantly recognizable. Haring became known for his political activism, both in the U.S. and abroad, and created murals, both commissioned and not, focusing on HIV/AIDS awareness, anti-drug use, nuclear disarmament and other social causes. Much of Haring’s work was sold in his Pop Shops, one in SoHo and one in Tokyo, to keep his work accessible to the public.

Legacy

Haring was diagnosed with AIDS in 1987. He was very public about his sexuality and his diagnosis, because he had seen many of his friends suffer in silence, and alone. Haring died in 1990 of complications related to AIDS. The Haring Foundation continues to support education, research and care related to AIDS. Haring’s work can be found an MoMA, the Bass Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago and other fine museums and galleries around the world.

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