Through its partnership with the National Gallery of Canada, the Winnipeg Arts Gallery is proud to present Keith Haring (1958-1990), one of the Pop movement's most important and recognizable artists. These quintessential public works capture the artist's belief that "art is for everyone" with their accessibility, bold colour, and powerful symbolism that begs for interpretation.
The son of a professional cartoonist, Haring left commercial art school in Pittsburgh to study at the School of Visual Arts in New York City at the age of 19. Heavily influenced by New York’s graffiti scene, he started to look at the city as an open canvas - especially the subways where he first gained attention for his public art. Inspired by a course on semiotics at school, Haring used symbols that "cut through all of culture and history" to celebrate life, death, war, and unity. Following in the steps of his idol (and eventual friend) Andy Warhol, Haring quickly gained the respect and attention of both the art world and the general public with his signature style of bold lined, figurative drawing.
While graffiti art influenced Haring's style, the 80's provided many social and political concerns to respond to through art. Raised in the climate of the Vietnam War and Civil-Rights movement, Haring was a natural activist who used his art to bring awareness to the issues of his time such as Apartheid and the AIDS and crack-cocaine epidemics. The 80's were also a prosperous time that fueled an unprecedented art market boom. The media embraced Haring and Warhol, making them household names. When Haring opened his own store called Pop Shop, he was criticized for ”selling out”. He defended his embrace of commercialism by stating that Pop Shop was simply another platform with which to bypass the artworld establishment, making his work more accessible to a larger audience. Those same critics would be silenced once they discovered that Haring donated proceeds from Pop Shop to the AIDS cause.
Haring died in 1990 of AIDS-related complications but his legacy lives on through his public art and The Keith Haring Foundation.