Keith Haring was an American artist and a key figure in pop art. His artistic competency developed in his childhood, but his most important works were made after he moved to New York and started to develop his own style, inspired by key figures such as Andy Warhol and Jean Dubuffet, and the contents of Robert Henri's manifesto The Art Spirit, where the author underlines the flowing, ever-growing nature of art. Haring embodied these principles all throughout his life.
His works were never meant for an elite, he withdrew his strength, passion, and inspiration from “things that come from real people, people who don’t have any art background, who aren’t part of the elitist establishment or of the intellectual community but who respond with complete honesty from deep down inside their hearts or their souls.” He conveyed messages about the most important issues of his time: apartheid, crack, and AIDS. He also travelled all over Europe, he famously painted the Berlin wall in 1986. He also worked in Italy various times, the most important one being the mural “Tuttomondo” in Pisa.
In 1987, however, Haring was diagnosed with AIDS. For years he had been in the very middle of the epidemic, advocating for safe sex and watching the people around him get sick and die. In 1989 he decided to release an interview to Rolling Stones, opening up about his experience with HIV/AIDS. That was a time of hysteria and fear, where nobody, especially not famous people were confronting the issue. Haring faced the disease with his head held high, instead of making him terrified of death, the epidemic “made me, in a way, more respectful of life and more appreciative of life than I ever, ever could have been”. Through the horror of losing loved ones and watching the disease spread, he just kept making art and celebrating life.
Keith Haring died on February the 16th, 1990, of AIDS-related complications. His artwork remains a symbol of the pop art movement and a symbol of his courage, his creativity, and his kindness. In 2020, thirty years after Haring’s death, 37.7 million people across the globe were living with AIDS and 680000 died because of AIDS-related illnesses. So far, no cure for HIV has been found. As Keith Haring and many others of this time have taught us: ignorance= fear, silence