Keith Haring (May 4, 1958 – February 16, 1990) was an artist and social activist whose work responded to the New York street culture of the 1980s.
He was born in Reading, Pennsylvania but grew up in Kutztown and was interested in art from an early age. From 1976 to 1978 he studied graphic design at The Ivy School of Professional Art, a commercial and fine art school in Pittsburgh. Keith moved to New York City where he was greatly inspired by the graffiti art, and additionally studied at the School of Visual Arts.
He achieved his first public attention with his chalk drawings in the subways of New York (see public art). The exhibitions were put on film by the photographer Tseng Kwong Chi. At this time, "The Radiant Baby" also became his symbol. Starting in 1980, he organized exhibitions in Club 57. He participated in the Times Square exhibition and drew for the first time animals and human faces. In 1981 he sketched his first chalk drawings on black paper and painted plastic, metal and found objects.
He contributed in the New York New Wave display. He met with the graffiti artist L.A. II (Angel Oritz). Following that, he had his first exclusive exhibition in the Tony Shafrazi Gallery. That same year, Haring took part of Documenta 7 in Kassel, Germany. He took part in the Whitney Biennial in 1983, as well as the São Paulo Biennial. He got to know Andy Warhol; Warhol was also the theme of several of Keith Haring's pieces including "Andy Mouse".
In 1984, he painted wall murals in Melbourne (such as the 1984 'Detail-Mural at Collingwood College, Victoria' that is due for demolition), Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, Paris (Museum of Modern Art), Minneapolis and Manhattan. In 1985 he began to paint canvas. Simultaneously, the Museum of Modern Art in Bordeaux opened an exhibition of his works, and he took part in the Paris Biennial. He made an appearance on MTV in November of 1985, painting the set during a "guest VJ" special hosted by his friend, keyboardist Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran.
In 1986 Haring painted murals in Amsterdam, Paris, Phoenix and in Berlin on the Berlin Wall at Checkpoint Charlie. He painted the body of Grace Jones for her video "I'm Not Perfect." He had his own exhibitions in 1987 in Helsinki and Antwerp, among others. Haring's imagery has become a universally recognized visual language of the 20th century. The Keith Haring Foundation, established in 1989, continues Keith's legacy of giving to children's organizations.
In June 1989, on the rear wall of the convent of the Church of Sant'Antonio in Pisa, he painted the last public work of his life, the mural "Tuttomondo".
Haring, who was openly gay, died in 1990 of an HIV (AIDS)-related disease. He had been diagnosed HIV positive two years earlier.
In December of 2007, an area of the American Textile Building in the TriBeCa neighborhood of New York City was discovered to contain a painting of Haring's from 1979.