First Public Exhibition of 17 of Keith Haring’s Subway Drawings at Brattleboro Museum
Opening reception on February 18, 2023
BRATTLEBORO, Vt. — In the early 1980s, Keith Haring was a little-known artist from Reading, Pennsylvania, not yet the international art superstar and social activist he would soon become. During this time, Haring made thousands of unsanctioned chalk drawings in New York City subway stations. Most of them were promptly thrown away or papered over by subway authorities. Only a limited number survive to this day. Seventeen of these historic drawings will be exhibited publicly for the first time at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC) in the exhibition “Keith Haring: Subway Drawings,” on view February 18–April 16, 2023. The exhibition’s opening reception, free and open to the public and with “Keith Haring-inspired snacks,” will take place at the museum on Saturday, February 18, at 5 p.m.
How could he have known? The person who saved the drawings from destruction was a New York City building superintendent and handyman who made Haring’s acquaintance while the soon-to-be-but-not-yet world-famous artist was in the act of creating one of his subway drawings. At some point, collector Alex Trimper acquired the drawings and agreed to lend them to BMAC along with a selection of other artworks by Haring.
Haring was influenced by a number of artists, including Christo for the public nature of his art; he was mentored by Andy Warhol and hung around with Jean-Michel Basquiat. In his short lifetime, Haring was prolific and his works were featured in some of the world’s best museums. He produced a number of murals including one on Germany’s Berlin Wall. He worked with artists in other genres, including dancer and choreographer Bill T. Jones and the late fashion designer Vivienne Westwood. Madonna wore a skirt designed from one of his drawings and following his death held a benefit concert in his memory. He designed an album cover for David Bowie.
In 2022, Haring’s creation of his famous “Radiant Baby”, estimated to be about 4 x 5 inches, was removed from the wall of his childhood home by its current owners and sold for $143,750.
Haring’s numerous accomplishments and his rise to fame are summarized here, (and it’s a fascinating read.) For those who are asking, “What does the Barking Dog (or another Haring icon) actually mean?” click here.
Keith Haring died of AIDS-related complications on February 16, 1990. He stated: “When AIDS became a reality in terms of my life, it started becoming a subject in my paintings. The more it affected my life the more it affected my work." At the time of his death, he was 31 years old.
(First paragraph text and photo, top, courtesy of BMAC)
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And in case you are wondering . . . Susan B. Apel shuttered a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.