One briefly feels like a teenager again after leaving the great Haring show in the Kunsthalle. … Haring is being reestablished as a political artist and an arthistorical visionary. … The exhibition is a coup.
In New York, during the conservatism of the Reagan era, Keith Haring (1958–1990) made it his mission to highlight social evils in his work. He took a clear stance against the excesses of capitalism and was committed to nuclear disarmament, environmental protection and equal rights for all, irrespective of ethnicity, skin colour, religion or sexual orientation. This retrospective focused on the political and sociocritical aspects of Haring’s oeuvre, which have been somewhat overlooked in previous exhibitions.
Haring the artist and activist
For the first time in 15 years in Germany, and for the very first time in Munich, the Kunsthalle presented a solo exhibition on Keith Haring. More than 160 artworks attested to the diversity of his oeuvre: the early Subway Drawings, large-scale paintings on canvases and tarpaulins, sketches, sculptures and works on enamel. Documentary material put the finishing touches to the picture of Haring the artist and activist. The exhibits were from museums and private collections in America and Europe, some on show for the first time since his death.
At the time of his death from AIDS-related complications at the age of 31 – after a creative period of just ten years – Keith Haring had achieved international renown, not just for his art but also for his political activism; after contracting HIV, Haring exploited his fame and spoke openly about his illness. This played an important part in removing the stigma of AIDS. In 1989, the artist set up the Keith Haring Foundation; its two main missions, still today, are to provide educational opportunities for underprivileged children and to raise the awareness of AIDS and HIV without prejudice. His influence on his own generation can scarcely be overestimated. Although Haring’s career was short, his ideal of political art still endures and the effect of his eye-catching imagery continues unabated.