Today marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Keith Haring, downtown NYC artist phenom of the 1980s. I can’t believe it’s two decades already since he succumbed to AIDS.
Haring was huge during my college years in the mid 1980s, his graffiti-inspired style and artworks showing up everywhere from New York City subways to the cover for the 1987 album A Very Special Christmas, which benefited the Special Olympics, to murals around the world, including one on the Berlin Wall, which he saw fall just three months before he died. His works were simple, yet effective. They made you laugh; they made you think.
I lived in Chicago during that era, but I would travel to New York at least two or three times a year to get my “Downtown” fix, and never missed an opportunity to hit the Pop Shop, Haring’s retail store on Lafayette Street in SoHo, to pick up t-shirts, bags, buttons, posters, and post cards. Especially buttons. It was the 80s, after all. Radiant Baby, Free South Africa, Barking Dog. I still have them all. (Yes, that is me to the left wearing one of my remaining Haring shirts today, with my cat Lola looking on.) My writing partner Nichole and I even used a photo of us in front of the mural mirror from the Pop Shop for the second cover of our zine ¿What? in late 1990. (Unfortunately my scanner is broken so I’ll have to add that photo later.)
Haring used his artwork and retail opportunities to spread awareness of issues he championed, particularly AIDS awareness and the anti-Apartheid movement. You can also credit him, not Whitney Houston, for the saying “Crack is Wack,” which appeared on a 1986 mural in an East Harlem park.
So in honor of Keith Haring, his artwork and his activism, here’s a list of a few places where you can still see his public works in New York City.
1. Crack is Wack, 1986. Harlem River Park. Yes, this is where the famous mural is found, along the FDR Drive on the north side of a handball court. The work was recently restored and is now a landmark.
2. Carmine Street Mural, 1987. Located on the wall that runs down the length of the Carmine Street Swimming Pool at the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center on the corner of Carmine and Varick streets in the West Village.
3. Once Upon a Time, 1989. One of Haring’s last works, this mural can be found in the men’s restroom on the second floor of The Center, also known as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, located at 208 W. 13th St.
4. Woodhull Medical Center, 1986. According to the hospital’s Web site, Haring donated the mural to Woodhull in honor of the hospital’s dedication to pediatric AIDS research and treatment.
5. Pop Shop. OK, so the fun brick-and-mortar store may be gone, but you can still buy Haring branded products online at pop-shop.com.