Plate IV from Keith Haring’s third set of the Pop Shop screen prints. Pop Shop III was released in 1989 in an edition of 200. Typical of Haring’s humorous style, the third set of the Pop Shop prints depicts his signature figures involved in some kind of altercation with an early computer. Heavily outlined in black and filled with bright colours reminiscent of commercial art or cartoons, they emanate energy and solidarity while also evoking empathy and tension.
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. The title, a reference to his famous Pop Shop which opened in Manhattan’s SoHo in 1986, also represents his desire to make art accessible to everyone by producing large editions of affordable prints.
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 five layers of colour – grey, black, green, red 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 works and as a set of four in an edition of 75, resulting in 875 prints in total for Pop Shop III, 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.