Plate III from Keith Haring’s second set of the Pop Shop screen prints. Pop Shop II was released in 1988 in an edition of 200.
Haring’s famous Pop Shop series is a testament to the artist’s ingenuity when it came to translating his drawings to the medium of screen printing. Pop Shop II features Haring’s characteristically cartoonish figures in various states of ecstasy, whether joined at the head or bending over backwards surrounded by joyful energy lines. The thick black outlines are typical of Haring’s street art style, developed in the subways and on the walls of New York in the early 80s. These early experiments resulted in a style and iconography for which Haring would become world famous, his barking dog, radiant child and winged superman figures instantly recognisable for their originality and playfulness. 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.
Haring opened his first Pop Shop in downtown Manhattan IN 1986. 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”.
Printed in four layers of colour – yellow, red, blue and black – 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 works and as a set of four in an edition of 75, resulting in 875 prints in total for Pop Shop II, 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.