During his tragically short but prolific artistic career, Keith Haring left a deep mark on the world of contemporary art, inspiring generations of future artists. After arriving in New York City in 1978, Haring immersed himself in its downtown culture, quickly becoming a fixture in the vibrant dance club and street art scene. Starting his career on the walls of the New York subway, he developed a recognizable style of bold lines and bright colors, imbued with unique energy and optimism.
Strongly believing that art should belong to the community, Haring often chose to work directly with and within public space. These Keith Haring public artworks expressed strong views through a unique and symbolic visual language, raising awareness of a number of pressing issues of the time, such as AIDS, social justice, gay right, the dangers of nuclear weapons, etc.
Although the artist tragically died in 1990 of AIDS-related complications, his spirit lives on through his artworks, which can still be found publicly throughout the world. All of these are preserved by the Keith Haring Foundation, which seeks to sustain, expand, and protect the legacy of Keith Haring, his art, and his ideals. We made a selection of 9 Keith Haring public artworks which remain a lasting reminder of his legacy and political activism.
Featured image: Keith Haring in front of the mural in Amsterdam. Courtesy of Mick La Rock.
In 1986, Keith Haring created a 700-foot-long mural at the Woodhull Hospital in New York as a gift to the hospital’s dedication to pediatric AIDS research and treatment. When proposing the work, the artist himself explained it would be “positive, uplifting, unaggressive, imaginative, and comforting.”
Working over the course of three days in the lobby of the outpatient unit, Haring was signing autographs and making drawings for passers-by during his breaks. A welcome sight at this New York hospital, it features his iconic dancing figures in bright, primary colors.
Created in 1987, the mural titled We The Youth is the only Keith Haring collaborative public piece remaining intact and on its original site at 22nd and Ellsworth, in the Point Breeze neighborhood in Philadelphia. The work was made with assistance from kids from both New York and Philadelphia and a few local artists on the occasion of the bicentennial of the United States Constitution.
Quintessential Keith Haring, the mural features his lyrical dancing characters created in primary colors, capturing the energy and spirit which emanates from his artistic vision. Although meant to be temporary, it continues to stand as a hidden and under-publicized gem of the city.
Featured image: Collaborative mural with city kids, 1987. Image via Creative Commons.
Created in 1987, Untitled (Ringed Figure) is a public Keith Haring sculpture located at Citygarden in St Louis, Missouri. It is reminiscent of Haring's designed murals, playgrounds and public works for children's hospitals, orphanages and daycare centers around the world.
In all of his works, the artist repeatedly used motifs that were easily recognized. Depicting his iconic dancing figure, the work is imbued with a feeling of energy and motion, enhanced by the bended knees that make the figure feel like it's about to spring forward.
Featured image: Keith Haring - Untitled (Ringed Figure) at Citygarden, 1987, via Thomas Duesing.
The Moscone Center in San Francisco, CA houses a diverse collection of public art. Among them is Keith Haring's sculpture Untitled (Three Dancing Figures) created in 1989.
This playful work features silhouette figures arranged as connected dancers, rendered in primary colors typical of the artist's oeuvre.
Another public sculpture featuring Haring's iconic dancing figures, The Boxers on Marlene-Dietrich-Platz in Potsdamer Platz, Berlin was created in 1987 as one of the first group of sculptures the artist created in Germany.
At first sight, the sculpture conveys a sense of aggression, until you discover the playful element of these colorful fighters, including the visual pun on hole-in-the-head, hole-in-the-stomach.
Featured images: Keith Haring - Boxers, 1987. Image via Creative Commons.
The entrepreneur from Schwendi near Ulm, Siegfried Weishaupt has been collecting with great sensitivity for more than fifty years, building up a collection with a strong individual profile. The collection is now housed in Kunsthalle Weishaupt in Ulm, Germany.
Since 2009, Keith Haring‘s Red Dog for Landois from 1987 has been standing in front of the Kunsthalle Weishaupt, as an example of one part of the collection that is not so easily displayed inside. These colorful canines with their mouths open mid-yap are one of the street artist's most universally recognizable symbols.
Featured image: Keith Haring - Red Dog for Landois, 1987. Image via Creative Commons.
One of the last Keith Haring's murals is in Pisa. Titled Tuttomondo, it was created on the facade of San Antonio church in 1989, a time when he was already diagnosed with AIDS. It revolves around the theme of peace and harmony in the world.
It features 30 figures which, like a puzzle, occupy 180 square meters of the south wall of the church. Each of the figures represents a different aspect of peace in the world - the "human" scissors are the image of solidarity between men in defeating the serpent (symbol of evil), which is already eating the head of the figure next to it; the woman with a baby in her arms represents maternity, while the two men supporting the dolphin refer to man's relationship with nature.
In 1984, Keith Haring visited Australia to undertake art projects in Sydney and Melbourne, including a large scale outdoor mural at what was then the Collingwood Technical School. As the artist explained, he chose the location because it had a great community feel about it. "Though it's supposed to be a poor area, its nothing like the poverty I have seen in New York," he added.
One of only three murals that haven’t been significantly over-painted, this fading art treasure features a range of the artist's dancing figures as well as two figures riding a computer brain caterpillar. A small wooden door with his signature and an iconic radiant baby motif went missing from the site, soon after it was painted.
Featured image: Collingwood Technical School, 1984. Image via Creative Commons.
The 1986 mural created on the former depot of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam is the artist's largest preserved piece in public space in Europe.
The mural features a “sea monster” painted with a thick white line. It has been concealed behind aluminum plates for the past 30 years until the 2018 initiative Save Our Haring which involved the artist Mick La Rock, the Stedelijk Museum, Keith Haring Foundation, Olivier Varossieau of the Vroom & Varossieau gallery and Market Quarter West, the owner of the building.
Featured image: Keith Haring Mural at Centrale Markthallen in Amsterdam; Keith Haring Mural in Amsterdam, courtesy of Mick La Rock.