Keith Haring: Fertility and Injustice
A Complex Portrayal of New Life and Horror

Keith Haring’s Fertility 5. A Pop Art screenprint of a red figure with yellow polka dots with pink pregnant figures lifting her up. Fertility 5 © Keith Haring 1983
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Keith Haring

Keith Haring's Fertility Suite perfectly illustrates what contemporary art intertwined with activism looks like. Through its vibrant yet haunting imagery, the series reflects societal challenges of its time, particularly the 1980s HIV/AIDS crisis. Haring masterfully merges the exuberance of life with the stark reality of social injustice, positioning the suite as a cornerstone in the realm of art that speaks to and for society. His work in this series not only showcases artistic brilliance but also carries a powerful narrative, offering insight into the complex interplay of life, adversity, and resilience.

Emerging as a pivotal figure in the 1980s, Haring's work transcended the conventional boundaries of the art world, blending street culture with high art, and giving voice to social issues through his instantly recognisable iconography. His legacy endures as a source of activism and advocacy, symbolising a time when art became an instrumental tool for societal change.

At the heart of Haring's oeuvre lies the Fertility Suite, a series that epitomises his artistic and social ethos. Created in 1983, this suite of works emerged during a period rife with social upheaval and crisis, notably marked by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The suite, with its lively neon hues and simplified, yet profound imagery, depicts Haring's commitment to highlighting critical social issues through his art. It's in this series that Haring's talent for synthesising joy and despair, life and death, becomes most evident.

The Fertility Suite is a commentary on the era's injustices–the rampant homophobia, the racial disparities, and the AIDS crisis that disproportionately affected communities and individuals, including pregnant women in Sub-Saharan Africa. Haring's work in this series is a powerful narrative that juxtaposes life’s vibrancy with the grim realities of social injustice. Through this, Haring invites the viewer to engage in a deeper contemplation of the world around them, encouraging a dialogue that is as relevant today as it was in the 1980s.

Keith Haring: An Icon of Urban Art and Social Activism

Born in 1958 in Reading, Pennsylvania, Haring's journey into the art world began in earnest when he moved to New York City in 1978 to attend the School of Visual Arts. It was here, in the graffiti-laced streets of New York, that he found his true canvas–the city itself. Haring almost instantly became synonymous with the urban art scene, turning subway stations into impromptu galleries with his chalk drawings, and transforming public spaces with his dynamic, animated imagery.

Haring's art, characterised by bold lines and bright colours spoke to and for the city's diverse communities. He captured the spirit and the struggles of the time, making his work a mirror to the rapidly changing world of 1980s New York. His art became a symbol of a city in flux, embodying the energy, tensions, and aspirations of its people.

Beyond his creative contributions, Haring was deeply committed to social activism. He was a vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and raised awareness about the HIV/AIDS crisis, a cause close to his heart as he himself was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988. Through his art, Haring addressed social issues with unmatched honesty and empathy. He used his work to engage in activism, often donating pieces to fundraisers and creating works that brought attention to the plight of those battling HIV/AIDS, with pieces like Silence Equals Death becoming an iconic representation of the AIDS movement.

Haring's legacy extends beyond the art he created, leaving a mark on the fight for social justice. His commitment to using art as a vehicle for change not only defined his career but also solidified his place as a pivotal figure in the overlapping worlds of urban art and social activism.

“I am intrigued with the shapes people choose as their symbols to create a language. There is within all forms a basic structure, an indication of the entire object with a minimum of lines that becomes a symbol. This is common to all languages, all people, all times.
Keith Haring

Decoding The Visual Language of Fertility Suite


At the heart of Fertility Suite's visual appeal is Haring's use of neon colours. The neon hues of yellows, pinks, and greens set against stark black backgrounds transport the viewer into the electrifying atmosphere of New York's nightlife. This choice of colours, reminiscent of the city's club scene, deliberately pairs life’s joy with the sombre undertones of the series. It's a visual paradox that captures the essence of an era defined by both its cultural liveliness and its grappling with grave societal issues.


Haring's style is further characterised by simplified forms and their thick outlines. His clear-cut lines and shapes bring a sense of immediacy and clarity, cutting through the noise to deliver powerful messages. This stylistic simplicity makes the complex themes of the Fertility Suite more accessible to a broader audience, reflecting Haring's belief in art as a democratic medium.


Central to the series are recurring motifs that Haring uses. The radiant baby, one of Haring's most iconic symbols, is prevalent throughout the suite. Often interpreted as a symbol of innocence, purity, and the potential of the new generation, Haring’s radiant baby in the context of Fertility Suite acquires a more emotional resonance, highlighting the innocence caught in the crossfire of societal injustices. Similarly, the pyramids and UFOs that feature in the series represent the unknown, the unexplainable aspects of life and society. In the backdrop of the HIV/AIDS crisis, these symbols take on a deeper meaning, alluding to the mysteries of life, death, and the unseen forces that govern them.

Interpretation and Public Reception

Upon its unveiling, Fertility Suite sparked a complex dialogue among art enthusiasts, critics, and the broader public. At the heart of this discourse was not just Haring's distinctive style, but his subject matter. ​​In the early 1980s, conversations around HIV/AIDS, especially in relation to marginalised communities, were often avoided due to its stigma. Haring however brought these issues to the forefront. While some critics praised the Fertility Suite for its blend of aesthetic appeal and deep social commentary, others found his portrayal of pregnant women, with symbols of life and death, too eerie a reminder of the HIV/AIDS crisis.

In more recent times, the Fertility Suite continues to resonate, now seen through the lens of historical reflection and ongoing social challenges. Haring's work has encouraged a generation of artists to use their platforms for activism, initiating difficult but necessary conversations about topics like race, sexuality, and health crises. In this way, Fertility Suite remains a vital part of both art history and social history, bridging the gap between two worlds often seen as disparate.

A Seller's Guide to Keith Haring

Keith Haring’s Market Value

Over the past five years, there has been a notable 22% growth in the average annual growth rate (AAGR) for Haring’s prints. In the last 12 months alone, 296 of his prints have been sold, producing a substantial €8,678,666 in sales value, with an average price of €29,319 per piece. These figures highlight not only the popularity of his work but also its increasing financial value in the Haring market.

A Buyer's Guide to Keith Haring

Focusing on specific pieces from the Fertility Suite, Fertility 2 provides a clear example of this trend, with an estimated value between £27,000 and £40,000. Since its first auction sale on October 2005, it has been sold 14 times, with the price ranging from £19,841 in March 2019 to a peak of £55,902 in April 2023. For the seller, this translates to an average return of £31,383. In the last 12 months, the average selling price has been around £39,119, with a total sales volume of 2. The artwork is limited to an edition size of 100, adding to its rarity and value.

Similarly, Fertility 3 holds an estimated worth of £50,000 to £70,000, since being auctioned 9 times since October 2001. In the last five years, the hammer price has varied from £23,115 in November 2019 to £44,177 in May 2022, demonstrating an average annual growth rate of 15%.

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Embracing Haring’s Vision

Haring's Fertility Suite embodies a powerful juxtaposition of themes. This series, marked by its vivid imagery, not only celebrates the vitality and resilience of life but also serves as a vehicle for commentary on the pressing issues of its time, including racism, homophobia, and the HIV/AIDS crisis. Through Haring's art, viewers are invited to reflect on the balance between the beauty and joy of existence and the critical need to address and rectify societal inequities. His work is a compelling reminder of art's potential to both uplift and challenge, to celebrate life while conscientiously acknowledging and confronting the injustices within our societies.

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