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
On any given day, in any given year, there’s a Keith Haring exhibit going on somewhere in the world. Although Haring died more than thirty years ago, his legacy is profound and long lasting.
In 1986, Keith Haring opened the Pop Shop in New York to make his art more accessible to the public. The small space, at 292 Lafayette Street in Soho, was a small boutique that sold t-shirts, pins and other novelty items adorned with Haring’s images. The entire shop, walls, floor and ceiling, were painted with Haring motifs.
“Here’s the philosophy behind the Pop Shop:” Haring said, “I wanted to continue this same sort of communication as with the subway drawings. I wanted to attract the same wide range of people, and I wanted it to be a place where, yes, not only collectors could come, but also kids from the Bronx. The main point was that we didn’t want to produce things that would cheapen the art. In other words, this was still an art statement.”
His playful style and hieroglyphic designs have a universal appeal. They look joyful, yet Haring’s messages focus on serious subjects like sex, drugs, war, discrimination, racism, and taking responsibility for personal behavior.
The Pop Shop closed in 2005. The original ceiling was donated to the New York Historical Society, where it was installed in its entryway.
The Tate Modern reconstructed the Pop Shop in 2009 as part of a group exhibit called Pop Life.
Silkscreens that Haring did during the early Pop Shop years are now available at VFA.
Haring was an integral part of the New York art and music scene in the 1980s. He hung out at Club 57 with other artists, like Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kenny Scharf, whose works he displayed at the Pop Shop.
Other celebs at the Club included Madonna, Ru Paul, the B-52s, Cyndi Lauper and Andy Warhol. Some of those artists were also visitors to Haring’s apartment on Broome Street in Lower Manhattan and many of them put their signatures and symbols on the door of Haring’s refrigerator door.
The refrigerator door, which measured 40.5 by 22.75 inches, was kept by the tenant who moved into the apartment after Haring left. She rescued the door after the fridge conked out and the landlord was going to replace it. The door sold at auction on May 11 for $25, 000.
Nora McGreevy. Keith Haring’s Famous Friends, From Madonna to Andy Warhol, Left Their Mark on His Fridge Door. Smithsonian Magazine. May 18, 2021.
Eileen G’Sell. The Darker Side of Keith Haring. Hyperallergic. May 15, 2021.
James Barron. Keith Haring’s Fabulous Friends Left Their Mark on His Fridge Door. The New York Times. May 11, 2021.
Michelle Devane. Exhibition showcasing pop art’s Andy Warhol and Keith Haring opens in Dublin. breaking news.ie. May 21, 2021.
Elizabeth Birdthishtle. Pop artists Warhol and Haring in Dublin and Belfast exhibitions. The Irish Times. May 15, 2021.