Keith Haring (May 4, 1958 – February 16, 1990) was an artist and social activist whose work responded to the New York City street culture of the 1980s.
He achieved his first public attention with chalk drawings in the subways of New York .
Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Haring grew up in Kutztown and was interested in art from an early age. From 1976 to 1978 he studied graphic design at The Ivy School of Professional Art, a commercial and fine art school in Pittsburgh. At age 19 Haring, who was openly gay, moved to New York City, where he was inspired by graffiti art, and studied at the School of Visual Arts.
Around this time, “The Radiant Baby” became his symbol.
Starting in 1980, he organized exhibitions in Club 57. He participated in the Times Square Exhibition and drew, for the first time, animals and human faces. In 1981 he sketched his first chalk drawings on black paper and painted plastic, metal and found objects.
In 1984, he painted wall murals in Melbourne, Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, the Paris Museum of Modern Art, Minneapolis and Manhattan.
In 1985 he began to paint canvas. Simultaneously, the Museum of Modern Art in Bordeaux opened an exhibition of his works, and took part in the Paris Biennial. He made an appearance on MTV in November 1985, painting the set during a “guest VJ” special hosted by his friend, keyboardist Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran.
In 1986 Haring painted murals in Amsterdam, Paris, Phoenix and in Berlin on the Berlin Wall at Checkpoint Charlie. As well, he painted the body of Grace Jones for her music video “I’m Not Perfect.”
In 1987 he had his own exhibitions in Helsinki and Antwerp, among others.
In June 1989, on the rear wall of the convent of the Church of Sant’Antonio in Pisa, he painted the last public work of his life, the mural “Tuttomondo”. Haring died in 1990 of an HIV (AIDS)-related disease. He had been diagnosed HIV positive two years earlier.