Keith Haring Montreux art

Haring designed these posters for the Montreux Jazz Festival | Source: Lyons Gallery

The Everlasting Iconography of Keith Haring

Known for his animated motifs, vibrant colours and political and cultural messages, Keith Haring was one of the most prolific contemporary artists of the 1980s whose work continues to be appreciated today. From sneakers to t-shirts, Haring’s art remains embedded in popular culture.

Moulded by New York’s graffiti culture, Haring emerged into the vibrant New York art scene of the 80s by using the city subway stations as a canvas for his distinct chalk drawings. After creating hundreds of public drawings, Haring went on to produce his distinct colourful works, including his 1986 mural Crack Is Wack in response to the crack cocaine epidemic in the US and Radiant Baby and Barking Dog from his Icons Series.

I don’t think art is propaganda; it should be something that liberates the soul, provokes the imagination and encourages people to go further. It celebrates humanity instead of manipulating it.

Keith Haring

Devoting his time to delivering social messages through his unmistakable bold-lined iconography, Haring continued to produce public works with powerful statements. After being diagnosed with AIDS in 1988, he went on to establish the Keith Haring Foundation which continues to raise awareness and drive funding for AIDS organisations and children’s programs. Haring died of AIDS-related complications in 1990.

Keith Haring Lithographic Works

After being commissioned by a cigarette company, Lucky Strike, Haring designed a range of advertisements for the brand. Of the nine drawings Haring made for the job, five were printed by Lucky Strike and three were released as posters. In his journal, Haring reportedly wrote of how the Lucky Strike executives were not pleased with his tenth sketch for the brand which depicted a smoking skeleton.

In response to the worsening crack-cocaine epidemic that was gripping New York, a ‘Crack Down on Crack’ fundraising concert was organised. Following on from his Crack Is Wack mural, Haring created this lithographic poster titled CRACKDOWN! for the event which was hosted on Halloween in 1986.

As one of the most well-known contemporary pop artists of our time, Keith Haring’s art continues to be enjoyed. And despite his mission to make art accessible through murals and his art store, Pop Shop, Haring’s works have gone on to fetch millions at auction over the years. Haring’s most expensive artwork ever sold is Untitled, 1982 which was purchased for approximately A$8.7 million at Sotheby’s in 2017.

While there are countless Haring posters in circulation, his original lithographic prints have proven to demonstrate profit potential with his iconic iconographic style continuing to attract pop-art lovers more than 30 years on.

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