S treet artist Keith Haring's rise to prominence began in the late 1970s with chalk sketches drawn in unused poster frames on the New York subway.
"More than once, I’ve been taken to a station handcuffed by a cop who realized, much to his dismay, that the other cops in the precinct are my fans and were anxious to meet me and shake my hand."
Regarding these public spaces as the ideal place to draw and deliver art to the masses, Keith began filling them with his vibrant designs: iconic figures like his radiant baby and barking dog, often while listening to music which he represented with his dynamic, radiating lines.
It wasn't always straightforward: despite a generally positive reaction to his works, he was occasionally arrested for vandalism. However, he even had admirers among the police. "More than once, I’ve been taken to a station handcuffed by a cop who realized, much to his dismay, that the other cops in the precinct are my fans and were anxious to meet me and shake my hand." – Keith Haring.
Haring brought to his artwork the natural exuberance of his character. He was open-minded, playful and mischievous, but above all he was ready to talk to and engage with people of all ages and eager to make art accessible and meaningful to as many people as possible. He used his art to engage with political and social issues of his time, from the AIDS crisis to crack cocaine abuse.
Haring quickly became part of New York's burgeoning counter-cultural art scene in the 1980s, befriending Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol, and his playful, energetic style contributed considerably to the character of the movement. He worked with established musicians and actors, including David Bowie and Grace Jones in an effort to bring art to the masses.
The exhibition at Tate Liverpool is the first major exhibition of Haring's work in Britain, and features Haring's large paintings and drawings, along with videos that convey the energy and creativity of New York in the 1980s. Screenprints of many of Haring's best known works will go on sale at Sotheby's Prints & Multiples sale in London on 17 September.