Plate II from Keith Haring’s first set of the Pop Shop screen prints. Pop Shop I was released in 1987 in an edition of 200.
The first of Haring’s iconic Pop Shop series, Pop Shop I encapsulates Haring’s ingenuity of form and subject. Complete with his dancing figures, energy lines and an underlying sense of community and pride, it represents a culmination of Haring’s practice as an artist who believed in the importance of art being for everyone.
The print was made in 1987, a year after Haring opened his first Pop Shop in downtown Manhattan. Aimed at kids and collectors alike, the Pop Shops were a place where Haring could sell his art for as little as 50 cents. The store stocked t-shirts, badges and magnets featuring his now ubiquitous designs.
While the project was praised by friends such as Andy Warhol, who was fascinated by the possibilities of the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction, it was snubbed by many leading art world figures who placed more value on original works of art. Speaking of the importance of opening the shop as opposed to making large canvases to please collectors, Haring said, “I could earn more money if I just painted a few things and jacked up the price. My shop is an extension of what I was doing in the subway stations, breaking down the barriers between high and low art”.
Having grown up with comics and cartoons, his was an iconography of reproduction. His love for commercial and Pop art was evident in his first experiments with street art which saw him creating signature figures he named ‘icons’, such as the barking dog, the radiant child and the winged superman. He would reproduce these figures over and over again, in bright colours reminiscent of advertising and later, just before his death from AIDS in 1990, in plain white embossings.
Printed in five layers of colour – black, red, blue, magenta and yellow – this work shows Haring’s mastery of screen printing as a medium. Though he had experimented with print techniques such as lithography in the late 70s and 80s it wasn’t until 1983 that Haring began making screen prints, or serigraphs, which offered a way of creating multiple images, that artists had adopted from the world of commercial printing. This move to screen printing was undoubtedly due in part to the method being popularised by Warhol, one of Haring’s most important influences, and soon he was producing ever more inventive and daring work.
It soon became evident that the energy and curiosity he demonstrated for painting translated perfectly into printmaking and he began to work with publishers across the US, Switzerland, Japan, Germany, France, Denmark and Holland. Though the prints were made in editions of 200 as individual prints and as a set of four in an edition of 45, resulting in 845 prints in total for Pop Shop I, there is an element of precision in every single one that shows the level of care with which he supervised the process.
By the time of his death, Haring had produced so many prints that the exact number has become impossible to count. There are many unsigned editions on the market, though these tend only to be considered valuable if approved by the Keith Haring Foundation. Today his prints are frequently among the most sought after multiples on the market.