Beautiful New York

A Celebration of the City

The Top 100 Greatest New Yorkers — #24

Keith Haring (1958 – 1990)


When he opened the Pop Shop as an outlet for selling his artwork in 1986, Keith Haring said it was for “breaking down the barriers between high and low art”. And indeed he did just that in his short life of prolific painting and activism. Living in New York at the height of the crack addiction epidemic of the 80’s, Haring painted his landmark Crack Is Wack mural as a work of illegal graffiti that has since been preserved by the city. His distinctive jigsaw-like figures make his work easily identifiable and are found all over the city, both indoors (like the lobby of the Woodhull Medical Center in Brooklyn) and outdoors (like the swimming pool at the Tony Dapolito Recreational Center on Clarkson Street). After he was diagnosed with AIDS in 1987, his work became darker, more political, and more activist in nature. During this time, he painted the famous Silence = Death poster for AIDS awareness. He also became increasingly prolific, driven by the numbering of his days. His last completed work was a triptych of the Life of Christ which stands in a chapel at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, where Haring’s memorial was held upon his death at age 31.


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