Keith Haring Biography

Posted by Edward Kurstak on

Born and raised in Pennsylvania by parents Allen and Joan Haring, Keith Haring became fascinated by the whimsical illustrative styles of Walt Disney, Charles Schultz and Dr. Seuss at an early age. His father, whose hobby was cartooning, helped nurture his love for the artform throughout his childhood. In 1976, he enrolled in the Ivy School of Professional Art in Pittsburg, but dropped out after two semesters. Later, in 1978, he would return to school in New York City at the School of Visual Arts.

Upon arriving in New York, Haring immersed himself in the bustling underground art scene that included Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kenny Scharf, and he befriended many nightlife personalities as well. This, in turn, led to his being present for a dramatic shift in the cultural landscape of the city: along with these other artists and designers, Haring organized exhibits at nightclubs and other alternative venues to showcase the art, music and fashion that non-commercial artists were producing at the time.

As well, Haring, Basquiat and other artists began using the city itself as their canvas. They all shared an interest in the graffiti tagged throughout the city, and Haring in particular began tagging city property, especially in the subways, with his signature marks—a barking dog, an infant emitting rays of light and energy, flying saucers, heart-shaped faces, dancing figures and more. His work was quickly noticed by the public and law enforcement alike, and he was arrested for vandalism on numerous occasions.

With his energetic and iconic work becoming known throughout the city, Haring made a name for himself and began applying his vision to free-standing canvases. In 1981, he had his first solo exhibit at the Westbeth Painters Space in Manhattan, and soon thereafter he signed with the Tony Shafrazi Gallery, who remained his official representatives until his death. He also opened a retail storefront called Pop Shop in New York’s SoHo neighborhood where he sold T-shirts, posters and other items featuring his distinctive designs in an effort to make his artwork accessible ot the buying public. In short turn, the city contracted him to create public works, of which he completed more than 50 throughout the 1980s. An activist within the queer community in New York, Haring also created work that drew attention to the HIV/AIDS crisis in the city, and many of his most famous pieces center around this topic.

In 1988, Haring was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, which prompted him to establish the Keith Haring Foundation to raise AIDS awareness and offer support to children’s art and culture programs. In 1990, at only 31 years old, Haring tragically lost his battle with the virus, but the legacy he left still lives on in his work. Today, his art is exhibited worldwide, including at the Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian, the Centre Georges Pompidou in France and other prestigious institutions. Edward Kurstak’s portfolio includes several of Haring’s posters, invitation cards, lithographs and more. Contact us today to learn how you can own a piece of this revolutionary artist’s work for yourself.