Today marks the 25th anniversary of the death ofKeith Haring; one of the most influential and iconic artists to emerge from the 20th Century. Haring was among the first artists to cross the boundaries fromstreet art/graffitiinto the more established world of fine art and gallery representation.
He made his name on the streets of New York in the 1980s, drawing and spraying gloriously simplistic images, which carried strong messages of hope and unity. The radiant baby became Haring's symbol and was quickly drawn in chalk onto the empty advertising hoarding of the cities subways. Haring established close friendships with a number of notable artists of the time includingJean-Michel Basquiat, whom he credited with inspiring him to pursue graffiti, Kenny Scharf and Futura 2000, as well as partying with hottest musicians such as Boy George and Madonna.
Haring believed that art was for everybody and during his life devoted much time to raising awareness for socio-political themes, such as the AIDS epidemic, apartheid in South Africa and drug addiction, through his artwork. His uncomplicated style and skilful draughtsmanship enable Haring to create work that communicated on a very basic human level. As a result his paintings and illustrations were accessible and transcended notions of race, gender or social status. Almost like modern day hieroglyphics Haring's work could speak volumes with only a few brush strokes.
His output was prolific and increased furthermore when he was diagnosed with AIDS in 1987. Sensing his own mortality Haring pushed even further with his art, producing increasing ambitious work as quickly as possibly. Many of our current crop of artists cite Haring as a major influence with practitioners such asPure Evil,Shepard FaireyandBanksyall paying tribute to the profound impact of he had on them. Haring died tragically young at the age of just 31 but the legacy of his work and message burns brightly 25 years on.