A Retrospective Celebrating Keith Haring’s 60th Birthday

To mark what would have been the 60th birthday of Keith Haring (1958–1990), the Albertina is devoting a comprehensive retrospective to this artist that includes around 100 works from international museums and private collections.

Keith Haring
 Untitled, September 1982 Vinyl paint on vinyl tarp Copyright © Keith Haring Foundation

Haring was one of his era’s widely celebrated artists. His works were shown at documenta 7 in 1982, in leading international museums and galleries, and at numerous biennial exhibitions all over the world.

Keith Haring Untitled, 1984 DayGlo acrylic on muslin Private Collection, New York Copyright © Keith Haring Foundation

Despite his early and lasting success among critics and on the art market, one central aspect—which can be viewed as a primary concern of his art—has to this day hardly been recognized in its true significance: his systematic symbolic language, which runs through all of his work like a golden thread.

Keith Haring Untitled, 1980 Sumi ink, spray paint, and acrylic on poster board 
 Copyright © Keith Haring Foundation

Keith Haring’s drawings, paintings, and sculptures embody messages that take a stand against the violence of ruling elites, against the oppression of minorities, against prejudice, and against barbarism. His themes thus repeatedly revolve around justice and change. Haring’s art consisted in a language that should be easily understood by every human being in its referencing of the creative principles of graffiti and street art, and with his stick-figures (themselves embodying a graphic form with prehistoric roots), he was part of that transformational process from low to high art that had already seen Pop Art cartoons and wall paintings added to museum collections.

Keith Haring Untitled, 1982 Sumi ink and acrylic The Brant Foundation Copyright © Keith Haring Foundation

Haring championed the individual and opposed the oppression of individuals by dictatorship, racism, capitalism, and drug addiction. He fought to end Apartheid in South Africa, and his dedication to the fight against AIDS is legendary.

Keith Haring
 Untitled, 1982 Enamel color on steel Private Collection, New York Copyright © Keith Haring Foundation

He was also one of those voices that warned loudest about the perils of nuclear war, environmental destruction, and countless other threats to humanity and our planet. Keith Haring developed his entire symbolic language based on the realization that images can function like words, and his early subway drawings became a significant foundation of his art.

Keith Haring Andy Mouse, 1985 Acrylic on canvas Copyright © Keith Haring Foundation

Haring’s influence on his contemporaries and on subsequent generations of artists has been enormous and lasting. And his political messages and thoughts are not only part of his legacy, but also part of humanity and the history of art as a whole.

16 MARCH – 24 JUNE 2018

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