Sun. Jan 17th, 2021

Just a few weeks ago , the documentary Keith Haring: street art boy was premiered in Spain, within the framework of the Barcelona D’Art Festival .

The film is presented as the definitive portrait of an artist with a fulminating career. Because despite his omnipresence, his works barely cover 11 years.

Directed by Ben Anthony, produced by PBS and BBC and narrated by his parents, his closest friends and other artists who knew him, such as Fab 5 Freddy or Lee Quiñones, the feature film uses one of the last interviews that Keith Haring gave as a common thread before dying in 1990 from complications related to AIDS , just 11 months after visiting Spain.

Thirty years after his death, Haring’s artistic legacy lives on fully. His work continues to be very present in fashion, with collections underway in several large chains such as Benetton, Uniqlo or Asos, and in products of all kinds that use his designs, such as skateboards , watches, backpacks, sneakers and even board games. .

Apart from this presence, which could be more or less anecdotal, the thermometer to measure the relevance of an artist continues to be the number of exhibitions of his work that are held globally (whether for artistic or commercial interest) and prices that reach their works in the market.

Haring comes off very well on both counts. In July , one of the most important retrospectives dedicated to him in Europe was closed at the Bozar Museum in Brussels . The show, organized by Tate Liverpool, was a real success, with 180,000 visitors. A new record for the Belgian center despite the harsh impact that the coronavirus has had in that country.

On the other hand, the auction house Sotheby’s continues to sell its works at a very good rate and, almost always, exceeding the prices estimated before the bids. The most important sale that has been made in recent months was a collection of 23 of his drawings with black marker on paper that reached 1.9 million dollars.

We could venture to say that the appeal of Haring’s work comes fundamentally from two aspects. The first would be a fascination for a time and place, the New York 1980s, when, in a crumbling city ravaged by crime and bankruptcy, some of the cultural movements that would mark millions of young people flourished.

During the decades that followed: hip-hop , graffiti, punk and the entire Do it Yourself culture . Haring’s style seems to condense all that maelstrom that he found when he arrived in the city in 1978, simplifying it to the extreme and adding a layer of optimism and energy that over the years will evolve towards something deeper and more assertive.

Keith Haring, in 1987, on a ladder in front of the wall on which he is going to paint his famous mural ‘Crack is Wack’. At his feet, Stern, who was then responsible for parks and gardens in New York, holds an umbrella, wearing a T-shirt with Haring’s drawing.

Keith Haring, in 1987, on a ladder in front of the wall on which he is going to paint his famous mural ‘Crack is Wack’. At his feet, Stern, who was then responsible for parks and gardens in New York, holds an umbrella, wearing a T-shirt with Haring’s drawing.

On the other hand, many of the themes that Haring deals with in his work are, unfortunately, still very topical: racism, homophobia, violence, disease, nuclear danger or war. His images today also manage to draw our attention deeply, making us reflect and act accordingly.

Haring defined his style by painting on the street and especially on empty billboards in the New York subway, where he made thousands of chalk drawings in the late 1970s.

Little by little he was gaining notoriety in the artistic world of the city and in 1980 he exhibited at the Times Square Show , a self-managed alternative art collective, in which his drawings were projected on one of the huge illuminated screens in Times Square.

‘Times Square Spectacolor Animation’ (1982). The projection of one of his drawings on the panels of Times Square, in New York, was one of the first signs of the notoriety that the artist’s work would acquire in the following years.

But while Haring enjoyed his newfound fame, he never stopped worrying about his art reaching as many people as possible. That is why in 1986 he created the Pop Shop , a store that sold clothing and merchandise with his drawings, and also why he spent a lot of his time painting murals in public places.

It began in 1982, with the mythical mural on Houston Street in New York, but later it did the same on the Wall in Berlin, Paris, Pisa or Barcelona.

The visit to our country was made only 11 months before his death. The artist had known for years that he was HIV positive. He was one of the first celebrities to go public in an interview he gave to Rolling Stone .

In 1989, there were still no treatments that allow carriers of the virus not to develop the disease and live a normal life. The news was a very hard blow for Haring. Many of his friends had died and he was facing an uncertain future before he was even 30 years old.

She had no idea how much time she had left, but she decided to make the most of it and devoted all her energies to AIDS activism; to paint and to travel around the world.

The mural measures 35 meters. It took Haring five hours to complete, and the Macba’s conservation and restoration team required 100 days to reproduce it faithfully. To the difficulty of copying the artist’s line (it can only be recreated with a neutral line), the roughness of the new wall is added, with much more texture than the original one Haring painted on.

The mural measures 35 meters. It took Haring five hours to complete, and the Macba’s conservation and restoration team required 100 days to reproduce it faithfully. To the difficulty of copying the artist’s line (it can only be recreated with a neutral line), the roughness of the new wall is added, with much more texture than the original one Haring painted on.

He arrived in Spain via Madrid. In the capital, the first thing he did was visit the Prado Museum, where Bosco’s Garden of Delights struck him . He also visited ARCO where he got quite bored. At the Puente Aéreo he was recognized by a Catalan art critic who invited him to a vernissage that Frederic Amat organized that night at the Joan Prats gallery .

It is fun to imagine Keith Haring dressed in the archetypal uniform of the New Yorker of the eighties – baseball jacket with white sleeves, hoodie , jeans and Nike Air Force sneakers -, in the ultra-European environment of an art gallery in Barcelona from the late 1980s. eighty.

Guillén told in the documentary 30 anys positius , recently broadcast by TV3, that at that very moment he proposed to do some kind of intervention in the city taking advantage of his visit. The artist agreed on condition of being able to choose where to do it.

Montse pulled her contacts at the City Council to get the permits and Haring chose the place where she found the most syringes lying on the ground: the now-defunct Salvador Seguí Square, next to the current Filmoteca de Catalunya, which reminded her, as she said, to the dangerous streets of upstate New York where he had begun to paint.

The mural, completed in just five hours on February 27, is entitled Together we can stop AIDS . The work measures 35 meters, was painted with red acrylic and in it, apart from the phrase in Castilian that gives it its title, there is a syringe in which a snake is coiled that represents the threat of AIDS.

A pair of scissors cut the reptile, whose tail is transformed into a discreet penis that a figure has covered with a condom. To his right, three characters cover their eyes, ears and mouth respectively.

They are Haring’s version of Mizaru (not seeing evil), Kikazaru (not hearing evil) and Iwazaru (saying no evil), the three Japanese monkeys of wisdom with whom we now interact almost daily through emojis of WhatsApp.

“I wrote him the title of the mural”. The work, painted on a concrete buttress of a house destined for demolition, was traced prior to its destruction in 1992 and currently a reconstruction of it can be seen next to the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona (Macba).

The creation of the mural was documented on video thanks to DJ César de Melero, who had met Haring the night before. “It was at the Arts Studio, a house clubfrom the upper area of ​​Barcelona where I was playing ”, De Melero tells ICON DESIGN.

“Someone came up to me and said, ‘Keith Haring is at the door and they won’t let him in.’ I could not believe it. I went to the door and there he was, unmistakable with his glasses and stuff. With the face that you have when they do not let you enter a disco. I pointed to him and said, ‘Hey you! Enters!’. We went to the bar, I bought him champagne and he spent the night in the booth with me ”.

The next night, Haring told De Melero that in the morning he was going to paint a mural in Chinatown and he decided to go over and record everything. “It’s funny, but I was the one who wrote him the phrase: ‘We can all stop AIDS together’ with which he closed and titled the mural,” César confesses.

In the final part of the recording, we can also see the artist painting another smaller work in the Arts Studio booth. “The last night he was in Barcelona he showed up with a pot of paint and made a small mural that is still preserved today. Now the place is a billiards club ”, the Catalan DJ tells us.

The gift of the child David, “the best of the two days I spent in Barcelona”. In the recording, we can see a world-renowned artist who speaks with the kids in the neighborhood and with the people who approach him.

Even, as he himself collected in his Diaries (Galaxia Gutenberg, 2001), he argued with the owner of a brothel in the area, angered by the theme of the work.

“He complained that the mural would only harm the neighborhood because people would think there were a lot of drugs there and the police would shut down the bars,” he wrote. “That is ridiculous because people already know how bad the situation in the neighborhood is.”

This book, fundamental to understanding Haring’s work and thought and nowadays completely out of print (second-hand copies are sold for around 600 euros), includes jewels from the intrahistory of this entire event such as the memory of David, a child del Raval who adopted Haring during the creation of the mural, preventing other kids from bothering him, and who decided to give the New York artist a farewell gift.

“The next day when we returned to photograph the mural, a neighbor came up to me with a pencil case and pencil that David had commissioned him to give me,” Haring recalled. “David was at school and he had worried that someone would give it to me if I came back while he was away. That was probably the best of the two days I spent in the city. “

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