Tate Liverpool presents the first major exhibition in the UK of American artist Keith Haring

Tate Liverpool is to present the first major exhibition in the UK of American artist Keith Haring (1958–1990). Keith Haring brings together more than 85 works exploring a broad range of the artist’s practice including large-scale drawings and paintings, most of which have never been seen in the UK.

Tseng Kwong Chi Keith Haring in subway car, (New York), circa 1983. Photo © Muna Tseng Dance Projects, Inc. Art © Keith Haring Foundation
Tseng Kwong Chi Keith Haring in subway car, (New York), circa 1983. Photo © Muna Tseng Dance Projects, Inc. Art © Keith Haring Foundation

Haring was a unique presence in 1980s New York, playing a key role in his generation’s counterculture and creating an immediately recognisable style. Best known for his iconic motifs, such as barking dogs, crawling babies and flying saucers, Haring’s work was politically charged and motivated by activism. As an openly gay man, Haring’s work as an AIDS activist and educator remains his most essential legacy. Elsewhere, he responded to equally critical and relevant issues, contributing to nuclear disarmament campaigns, creating a famed Crack is Wack mural, and designing anti-apartheid posters.

Keith Haring, 1958-1990 Crack Down! 1986 Poster 608 x 481 mm Collection Noirmontartproduction, Paris
Keith Haring, 1958-1990 Crack Down! 1986 Poster 608 x 481 mm Collection Noirmontartproduction, Paris © Haring Foundation/ Collection Noirmontartproduction, Paris

Haring expanded on wide-ranging legacies and influences from abstract expressionism, pop art, and Chinese calligraphy, to the work of New York graffiti artists. His singular, seemingly spontaneous style, was animated by the energies of his era; from space travel and robotics to video games. The exhibition evokes the style and spirit of the time in rarely seen archival documents, video and photographs while Haring’s immersive ‘black light’ installation from 1982 presents fluorescent works under UV light accompanied by hip-hop music.

Keith Haring, 1958–1990 Untitled 1983 Vinyl paint on tarpaulin 3068 x 3020 mm Collection of KAWS
Keith Haring, 1958–1990 Untitled 1983 Vinyl paint on tarpaulin 3068 x 3020 mm Collection of KAWS © Keith Haring Foundation

Dedicated to the creation of a truly public art that would reach the widest possible audience, Haring commented:

‘I remember most clearly an afternoon of drawing… All kinds of people would stop and look at the huge drawing and many were eager to comment on their feelings toward it. This was the first time I realised how many people could enjoy art if they were given the chance. These were not the people I saw in the museums or in the galleries but a cross-section of humanity that cut across all boundaries.’

He frequently collaborated with Andy Warhol, and Jean-Michel Basquiat who shared his desire to unite high art and popular culture.

Keith Haring, 1958–1990 Ignorance = Fear 1989 Poster 660 x 1141 mm Collection Noirmontartproduction, Paris
Keith Haring, 1958–1990 Ignorance = Fear 1989 Poster 660 x 1141 mm Collection Noirmontartproduction, Paris © Haring Foundation/ Collection Noirmontartproduction, Paris

The exhibition also sheds light on the performative nature of Haring’s work, from his live chalk drawings on the New York subway to working with artist and photographer Tseng Kwong Chi who documented Haring’s practice. Haring also collaborated with Madonna, Grace Jones, Vivienne Westwood, and Malcolm McLaren, making sets and designs for videos and performances.

Keith Haring, 1958-1990 Safe Sex! 1987 Poster 798 x 743 mm Collection Noirmontartproduction, Paris
Keith Haring, 1958-1990 Safe Sex! 1987 Poster 798 x 743 mm Collection Noirmontartproduction, Paris © Haring Foundation/ Collection Noirmontartproduction, Paris

Keith Haring’s career was brief, and on 16 February 1990 he died of AIDS-related complications at the age of 31. Haring expressed universal concepts of birth, death, love, sex, war and compassion to create a body of work that remains as relevant today as it was when it was made.

Keith Haring is curated by Darren Pih, Curator, Exhibitions & Displays, and Tamar Hemmes, Assistant Curator, Tate Liverpool. It is realised in collaboration with Tate Liverpool, the Keith Haring Foundation and in partnership with Centre for Fine Arts (BOZAR), Brussels, and Museum Folkwang, Essen. The exhibition will tour to BOZAR (5 December 2019 to 19 April 2020) and Museum Folkwang (22 May to 20 September 2020).

KEITH HARING? 14th June – 10th November 2019? tate.org.uk/liverpool

Keith Haring, 1958–1990 Untitled 1983 Woodcut 610 x 762 mm Collection of the Keith Haring Foundation
Keith Haring, 1958–1990 Untitled 1983 Woodcut 610 x 762 mm Collection of the Keith Haring Foundation © Keith Haring Foundation

About Mark Westall

Mark Westall is the Founder and Editor of FAD magazine, ' A curation of the world’s most interesting culture' [PLUS] Art of Conversation: A tri-annual 'no news paper'