Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, Haring grew up in Kutztown with his mother, Joan Haring, and his father, Allen Haring, a cartoonist. He also had three younger sisters, Kay, Karen and Kristen. Haring was interested in art from an early age. From 1976 to 1978 he studied commercial art at The Ivy School of Professional Art, an art school in Pittsburgh. He soon lost interest in commercial art and moved on to study Fine Arts.
Haring achieved his first public attention with chalk drawings in the subways of New York (see public art). These were his first recognized pieces of pop art. The exhibitions were filmed by the photographer Tseng Kwong Chi. Around this time, “The Radiant Baby” became his symbol. His bold lines, vivid colors, and active figures carry strong messages of life and unity. Starting in 1980, he organized exhibitions in Club 57. He participated in the Times Square Exhibition and drew, for the first time, animals and human faces. That same year, he photocopied and pasted around the city provocative collages made from cut-up and recombined New York Post headlines. In 1981 he sketched his first chalk drawings on black paper and painted plastic, metal and found objects.
By 1982, Haring established friendships with fellow emerging artists Futura 2000, Kenny Scharf, Madonna and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Haring created more than 50 public works between 1982 and 1989 in dozens of cities around the world. His famous “Crack is Wack” mural, created in 1986, has become a landmark on New York’s FDR Drive. He got to know Andy Warhol, who was the theme of several of Haring’s pieces including “Andy Mouse.” His friendship with Warhol would prove to be a decisive element in his eventual success, particularly after their deaths.
In 1984, Haring visited Australia and painted wall murals in Melbourne (such as the 1984 ‘Detail-Mural at Collingwood College, Victoria‘) and Sydney and received a A$1000 commission from theNational Gallery of Victoria and the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art to create a mural, based on his graffiti designs, which temporarily replaced the water curtain at the National Gallery.He also visited and painted in Rio de Janeiro, the Paris Museum of Modern Art, Minneapolis and Manhattan. He even designed a jacket worn by a pink-wigged Madonna for a performance of her song “Like a Virgin” for the TV dance program Solid Gold.
In 1985 Haring started to paint canvas. He made an appearance on MTV in November 1985, painting the set during a “guest VJ” special hosted by his friend, keyboardist Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran. In 1986 Haring painted murals in Amsterdam, Paris, Phoenix and in Berlin on the Berlin Wall at Brandenburg Gate. As well, he painted the body of Grace Jones for her music video “I’m Not Perfect.” and opened a retail store in SoHo called Pop Shop, selling merchandise bearing his iconic images including t-shirts, toys, posters and other objects with reproductions of his art; the outlet closed in 2005. Haring also created advertising images for Absolut vodka and Swatch watches.
When asked about the “commercialism” of his work, Mr. Haring said: “I could earn more money if I just painted a few things and jacked up the price. My shop is an extension of what I was doing in the subway stations, breaking down the barriers between high and low art.” By the arrival of Pop Shop, his work began reflecting more socio-political themes, such as anti-Apartheid, AIDSawareness, and the crack cocaine epidemic. He even created several pop art pieces influenced by other products: Absolut Vodka, Lucky Strike cigarettes, and Coca-Cola. In 1987 he had his own exhibitions in Helsinki and Antwerp, among others. He also designed the cover for the benefit album A Very Special Christmas, on which Madonna was included. In 1988 he joined a select group of artists whose work has appeared on the label of Chateau Mouton Rothschild wine.
A rare video of Haring at work  shows his energetic style. Mr. Haring wrote: “I am becoming much more aware of movement. The importance of movement is intensified when a painting becomes a performance. The performance (the act of painting) becomes as important as the resulting painting.”
Keith Haring was openly gay and was a strong advocate of safe sex; however, in 1988, Haring was diagnosed with AIDS. He established the Keith Haring Foundation in 1989, its mandate being to provide funding and imagery to AIDS organizations and children’s programs like Kinderstern, and to expand the audience for Haring’s work through exhibitions, publications and the licensing of his images. Haring enlisted his imagery during the last years of his life to speak about his own illness and generate activism and awareness about AIDS.
In 1989, at the invitation of the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center to join a show of site-specific artwork for the building, at 208 West 13th Street, Haring chose the second-floor men’s room for his mural Once Upon a Time. In June, on the rear wall of the convent of the Church of Sant’Antonio (in Italian: Chiesa di Sant’Antonio abate) in Pisa (Italy), he painted the last public work of his life, the mural “Tuttomondo” (translate: “all-world”), along with 6 animated inserts for Sesame Street (which later aired a year after his death).
Haring died February 16, 1990 of AIDS-related complications.
As a celebration of his life, Madonna declared the first New York date of her Blond Ambition World Tour a benefit concert for Haring’s memory, and donated all proceeds from her ticket sales to AIDS charities including AIDS Project Los Angeles and amfAR; the act was documented in her film Truth or Dare. Additionally, Haring’s work was featured in several of Red Hot Organization‘s efforts to raise money for AIDS and AIDS awareness, specifically its first two albums, Red Hot + Blue and Red Hot + Dance, the latter of which used Haring’s work on its cover.
My favorite thing about Keith’s work besides his message and the fact that he remained in tune with his initial goals within his art is the movement in his art, literally I just want to dance when I see his work, I’ve seen some documentaries about his work and life and he definitely made an impact within the art community by remaining true and inclusive to many and spreading awareness of disease and poverty.
I wonder if Keith’s art will make you want to dance? Check out some more of his art below and let me know. Also make sure to check out: http://www.haring.com/ for more info on Keith’s legacy plus you can purchase merchandise for the pop shop, I’ve got my eye on a few items. 🙂