5 Reasons to Love: Keith Haring

The infamous spritely squiggler who decorated the eighties with low-fi imagery and high intentions. He used cartoon inspired imagery to help us fight AIDS, reimagine the Berlin wall and teach us that Crack is Wack. Above all else, he went out of his way to share his art with everyone. As if all that wasn’t enough, here are 5 reasons to adore the late, great doodler.

 

5. He made his art accessible to everyone

With his unmistakably bold, readable style Haring broke through barriers and created art accessible to all. He dragged it from the white walls of the gallery onto the streets and subways, helping to legitimise street art along with the super-cool likes of Jean Michel Basquiat. He made easily reproducible art, a prime example of this being his legendary Pop Shop which opened in New York, 1986. A fully functioning boutique selling Keith Haring memorabilia in all shapes and sizes, every surface of the premises was penned with Haring’s trademark lines and Haring saw the shop as an extension of his work. Although skeptics accused him of capitalising, the artist remained steadfast in his intention to allow not just the rich, the art dealers and the bourgeois elite but people from all walks of life to connect with his work one-to-one. Go Keith!

 

4. He took Andy Warhol to Madonna’s wedding as a plus one 

No jokes, this really happened! Not many small town kids in the eighties left for art school in New York and wound up chummy with Warhol, partying with Madonna and painting Grace Jones’s naked body, but Keith Haring did. He embraced the idea of fame and associated it with furthering his impact on society.

 

3. He blurred lines with his lines

 Haring had a habit of turning art on its head. Not only did he help bring credibility to street art, but thanks to the Pop Shop, various commissions, his cartoonesque drawing style and celebrity persona he blurred the division between art and commerce, a controversial and much debated discourse. He forced us to question the boundaries of art in a similar way to his idol, Warhol, only he did so with a deeper moral motive. Haring empathised hugely with ethnic minorities, claiming to suffer from ‘white guilt’, perhaps partly due to his growing up in the politically volatile sixties. He encouraged his black, Asian, Hispanic and female friends to attend his shows and to penetrate the art world which was at that point a predominantly white, male industry.

 

2. He was the greatest freestyler

 Not even his greatest works had any preliminary sketches. He had such a refined style honed to a tee, and a carefully constructed, limited visual language that he knew by heart, he could turn up anywhere and create a poignant message in just a few strokes of a brush. Charmingly, he would sign autographs to children with an individual drawing, and would regularly sketch freestyle on peoples clothing and possessions.

 

1. He fought for public awareness

Haring made the best possible use of his art; he used it almost solely to educate, spread awareness and encourage equality, to a level that few artists are selfless enough to accomplish. He painted several public murals around the world dealing with issues such as homophobia, AIDS and drug abuse in a readable, optimistic style, in locations where all types of people came into contact with his voice. Who knows how he might have gone on to influence the world had he not been stolen from us so tragically early. R.I.P. Keith Haring, the doodler who changed the world.