Known for his bold graphic style and playful sense of humour, Keith Haring is one of the most influential and adored artists of the 20th century.

Born in Pennsylvania, in 1958, Haring was a talented draughtsman as a child and developed his cartoonish style at the hands of his father and the work of Walt Disney and Dr Seuss. However it would take some time before he realised he could marry this kind of drawing with being a fine artist. Upon graduating from high school he enrolled in a commercial art school before realising he had little interest in pursuing a career as an illustrator or graphic designer. After dropping out of college he joined the hippie movement and hitchhiked across the country where he made anti-Nixon t-shirts to pay for food and Grateful Dead tickets.

In 1978 he moved to New York to study at the city’s School of Visual Arts where he was taught by Joseph Kosuth and learned about semiotics. In the city he found a like minded community of artists, musicians, performers and graffiti artists who helped define his style. This alternative art scene eschewed museums and galleries in favour of the street, the club and the subway, where Haring began drawing with white chalk on black disused advertising panels. He called the subway his ‘laboratory’, somewhere he could experiment with simple lines and engage with his audience directly. This approach occasionally led him to being arrested however it often ended well, “More than once,” he said, “I’ve been taken to a station handcuffed by a cop who realised, much to his dismay, that the other cops in the precinct are my fans and were anxious to meet me and shake my hand”.

Keith Haring
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