Keith Haring was born on May 4, 1958 in Reading, Pennsylvania. He developed a love for drawing at a very early age, learning basic cartooning skills from his father and from popular culture, such as Dr. Seuss and Walt Disney.
In 1978 Haring moved to New York City and enrolled in the School of Visual Arts (SVA). In New York, Haring found a thriving alternative art community that was developing outside the gallery and museum system - in the downtown streets, the subways, and spaces in clubs and former dance halls. Here he became friends with fellow artists Kenny Scharf and Jean-Michel Basquiat, as well as the musicians, performance artists and graffiti writers that comprised the burgeoning art community. Haring was determined to devote his career to creating a truly public art.
In 1980, Haring began to create drawings in white chalk upon blank advertising paper panels throughout the subway system. Between 1980 and 1985, Haring produced hundreds of these public drawings in rapid rhythmic lines, sometimes creating as many as forty “subway drawings” in one day. Between 1980 and 1989, Haring achieved international recognition and participated in numerous group and solo exhibitions. Some of his public projects ranged from an animation for the Spectacolor billboard in Times Square, designing sets and backdrops for theaters and clubs, developing watch designs for Swatch and an advertising campaign for Absolut vodka, and creating murals that carried social messages worldwide. During a brief but intense career that spanned the 1980s, Haring was highly sought after to participate in collaborative projects ,and worked with artists and performers as diverse as Madonna, Grace Jones, Bill T. Jones, William Burroughs, Timothy Leary, Jenny Holzer, Yoko Ono, and Andy Warhol. By expressing universal concepts of birth, death, love, sex and war - using the primacy of line and directness of message - Haring was able to attract a wide audience and assure the accessibility and staying power of his imagery, which has become a universally recognized visual language of the 20th century.
Keith Haring died of AIDS-related complications at the age of 31 on February 16, 1990. The work of Keith Haring can be seen today in the exhibitions and collections of major museums around the world.