A new Keith Haring exhibit opens at The Broad in Los Angeles – WWD

The seeds to launch a Keith Haring exhibition at The Broad museum were planted 10 years ago in France.

In 2013, Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad traveled to Paris to see 250 works by the New York street artist on display at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. The idea was that the art collector and philanthropist, who was building a new contemporary art museum in downtown Los Angeles, would make a splash by staging a similar exhibit around the time he opened his art institution in 2015.

For various reasons, the exhibition never took place. Then Broad, who made his fortune in the insurance and home construction industries, passed away in 2021 at age 87. But his dream never died.

On Saturday, The Broad unveiled the “Keith Haring: Art is for Everybody” exhibition, featuring 125 pieces of art and archive created during a decade of prolific energy as Haring made waves by bringing art from the penthouse to the street. This marks the first time Haring’s artwork has had a major retrospective at a Los Angeles museum. It will run until October 8, when it will be shipped to the Art Gallery of Ontario in Canada to open in November.

“I’m really excited about the moment [of this exhibition]says Joanne Heyler, founding director and chief curator of The Broad. “I think Keith as an artist, what he did and what he stood for, is something that can resonate very deeply today, even more so than in 2013 or 2015. It was just a matter of finding the right moment.”

Heyler was deeply involved in the making of the exhibition. Ten years ago, she accompanied the Broad on that trip to Paris to see Haring’s show, and they discussed how they might exhibit some of those works when The Broad opened. But opening a new art museum and a Haring exhibit at the same time became too daunting. It turned out for the better.

“Finding the right time to put on a Haring show ourselves, for our city of Los Angeles, was the best way to go, rather than taking someone else’s show,” Heyler explains.

An untitled work by Keith Haring. 1982. Courtesy: The Broad

© Keith Haring Foundation, courtesy of the Rubell Museum

Eli Broad and his wife, Edythe, began collecting art in the 1970s. One of their first acquisitions was a Van Gogh drawing purchased in 1972 for $95,000. In the 1980s, they turned to collecting contemporary and post-war art.

“Eli Broad was one of the first big collectors of Keith Haring,” says Jeffrey Deitch, who in 2013 was director of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, which is located across the street from what would become The Broad. . “His support from him to Keith was very meaningful. He bought very early. Eli Broad was very committed to art that had a social angle and addressed social issues.”

Spanning 120,000 square feet, The Broad is home to the philanthropic couple’s 2,000-work collection of 200 artists, including Jeff Koons, Ed Ruscha, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Barbara Kruger, George Condo, Takashi Murakami and Cy Twombley. There are eight Haring pieces, six of which are in the current exhibition.

Haring had a short but prolific artistic career. In 1978, she came to the New York art scene from a small Pennsylvania town to study at the School of Visual Arts. He was soon immersed in the art world of downtown New York with other creatives, including Basquiat, Warhol and Kenny Scharf.

Keith Haring. Courtesy: The Broad

Photographer: Scott Schedivy

Haring initially attracted public attention by creating white chalk drawings on unused black advertising boards in New York subway stations. He later became known for his energetic line, vibrant colors and images of barking dogs, flying saucers and big hearts.

He also dabbled in fashion. After Haring was featured in Paper magazine, British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood asked to meet the street artist. He gave her two large sheets of drawings that she turned into textiles for her fall 1983 “Witches” collection. Haring’s friend Madonna wore a skirt from the collection in her 1984 music video for the single “Borderline.”

A Keith Haring jacket. Courtesy: The Broad

© Keith Haring Foundation

He painted on the clothes. She was seen wearing a Somali model Iman wearing a jean jacket that she had decorated.

To bring art closer to people, in 1986 Haring opened the Pop Shop in New York’s SoHo, where he sold T-shirts, badges, posters, and other items emblazoned with his artistic imagery for relatively inexpensive prices. At the time, Haring’s artwork was tackling more sociopolitical issues such as AIDS, the anti-apartheid movement, nuclear disarmament, and the crack epidemic.

Four years later, the artist died at the age of 31 due to an AIDS-related illness. In just over a decade, he produced more works of art than most people in his lifetime.

“I think it’s interesting to see how Keith’s art really resonates today, and amazingly with young people. To them, he is a hero. He was out and about without shame at a time when it wasn’t easy to be out. He defended injustice. He fought in the fights for HIV and AIDS,” says Gil Vázquez, who knew Haring and is now CEO and president of the Keith Haring Foundation in New York City.

The foundation was instrumental in organizing The Broad exhibition by lending 67 pieces to the show, while a further 42 came from private collectors. “I always try to point out that Keith’s work is deceptively complex,” says Vázquez. “He seems very simple on the surface, but as you follow the progression of his career, you can see the growth in those 10 years.”

The Keith Haring exhibition begins with works from the late 1970s and ends in 1988. It shows the various media the artist used, including video, sculpture, drawing, painting, and graphic works. Haring’s stick figures outlined in black and filled with vivid colors have sometimes been likened to comic book images, but they were popular and carried messages such as “ignorance = fear” and “silence = death”.

The Broad Museum. Mike Kelley, courtesy of The Broad.

Sarah Loyer, curator and exhibition manager at The Broad, is eager to see how the public will respond to Haring’s work. “It’s really a part of popular culture. The imagery of him is saturated in our culture. Even visitors who don’t know his name will likely be able to recognize some of his work,” she says.

Museum staff struggled to squeeze so many of the artist’s creations into a 10,000-square-foot area. “There is a gallery dedicated to his student work, including experimental performance videos, work with different photocopies, and collages posted on the streets,” says the curator. “There are some galleries from the early 1980s, when he had his first major gallery show and he really exploded onto the international scene.”

There’s also a gallery featuring Haring’s super-glossy hip-hop and breakdancing-inspired Dayglo works, originally displayed in the basement of the Tony Shafrazi Gallery in New York. A gallery will take a cue from Pop Shop, showcasing archival posters, T-shirts, buttons, condom cases and Swatch watches.

Haring’s art had a message. Courtesy: The Broad

© Keith Haring Foundation

The last gallery features important works from the late 1980s that are accompanied by framed posters illustrating the artist’s activism in the HIV/AIDS crisis.

The museum gift shop will stock various items incorporating Haring’s imagery, including “Radiant Baby” and “Dancing Dog” T-shirts, backpacks, sunglasses and baby onesies.

Vázquez, of the Keith Haring Foundation, thinks his artist friend would be pleased if his work, with its social commentary, is seen by thousands. “I think he would be proud of how people connect with his art, with him and with his message,” says Vázquez. “I think he would be proud of what he was able to accomplish in his short life.”