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Keith HaringKeith 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.

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Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Haring grew up in Kutztown with his mother, Joan Haring, and his father, Allen Haring, a cartoonist. He also had three younger sisters, Kay, Karen and Kristen. Haring was interested in art from an early age. From 1976 to 1978 he studied commercial art at The Ivy School of Professional Art, an art school in Pittsburgh. He soon lost interest in commercial art and moved on to study Fine Arts.

At age 19, in 1978, Haring moved to New York City, where he was inspired by graffiti art, and studied at the School of Visual Arts.

Haring achieved his first public attention with chalk drawings in the subways of New York (see public art). These were his first recognized pieces of pop art. The exhibitions were filmed by the photographer Tseng Kwong Chi. Around this time, "The Radiant Baby" became his symbol. His bold lines, vivid colors, and active figures carry strong messages of life and unity. 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.

Haring contributed to the New York New Wave display in 1981 and in 1982, he had his first exclusive exhibition in the Tony Shafrazi Gallery. That same year, Haring took part in Documenta 7 in Kassel, Germany. By 1982, he established friendships with fellow emerging artists Futura 2000, Kenny Scharf, Madonna and Jean-Michel Basquiat. That same year he took part in Public Art Fund's "Messages to the Public" in which he created work for a Spectacolor Board in Times Square. He took part in the Whitney Biennial in 1983, as well as in the São Paulo Biennial. He got to know Andy Warhol, who was the theme of several of Haring's pieces including "Andy Mouse." His friendship with Warhol would prove to be a decisive element in his eventual success, particularly after their deaths.

In December 2007, an area of the American Textile Building in the TriBeCa neighborhood of New York City was discovered to contain a painting of Haring's from 1979.

In 1984, Haring visited Australia and painted wall murals in Melbourne (such as the 1984 'Detail-Mural at Collingwood College, Victoria') and Sydney and received a AU$1000 commission from the National Gallery of Victoria and the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art to create a mural, based on his graffiti designs, which temporarily replaced the water curtain at the National Gallery. He also visited and painted in Rio de Janeiro, the Paris Museum of Modern Art, Minneapolis and Manhattan. He even designed a jacket worn by a pink-wigged Madonna for a performance of her song "Like a Virgin" for the TV dance program Solid Gold.

In 1985 Haring started 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 Brandenburg Gate. As well, he painted the body of Grace Jones for her music video "I'm Not Perfect." and opened a retail store in SoHo called Pop Shop, selling merchandise bearing his iconic images including t-shirts, toys, posters and other objects with reproductions of his art; the outlet closed in 2005. Haring also created advertising images for Absolut vodka and Swatch watches.

When asked about the "commercialism" of his work, Mr. Haring said: "I could earn more money if I just painted a few things and jacked up the price. My shop is an extension of what I was doing in the subway stations, breaking down the barriers between high and low art." By the arrival of Pop Shop, his work began reflecting more socio-political themes, such as anti-Apartheid, AIDS awareness, and the crack cocaine epidemic. He even created several pop art pieces influenced by other products: Absolut Vodka, Lucky Strike cigarettes, and Coca-Cola. In 1987 he had his own exhibitions in Helsinki and Antwerp, among others. He also designed the cover for the benefit album A Very Special Christmas, on which Madonna was included. In 1988 he joined a select group of artists whose work has appeared on the label of Chateau Mouton Rothschild wine.

Haring also created a public mural in the ambulatory care department of Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center on Flushing Avenue, Brooklyn.

Keith Haring was openly gay and was a strong advocate of safe sex; however, in 1988, Haring was diagnosed with AIDS. He established the Keith Haring Foundation in 1989, its mandate being to provide funding and imagery to AIDS organizations and children's programs like Kinderstern, and to expand the audience for Haring’s work through exhibitions, publications and the licensing of his images. Haring enlisted his imagery during the last years of his life to speak about his own illness and generate activism and awareness about AIDS.

In June 1989, on the rear wall of the convent of the Church of Sant'Antonio (in Italian: Chiesa di Sant'Antonio abate) in Pisa (Italy), he painted the last public work of his life, the mural "Tuttomondo" (translate: "all-world"), along with 6 animated inserts for Sesame Street (which later aired a year after his death).

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