“Untitled FDR NY #23 and #24”, 1984 – Keith Haring

Keith Haring’s desire was to make art available for everyone.

Untitled (FDR NY) #23 and #24 was part of an expansive mural Haring made on the FDR Highway, Manhattan, New York in 1984. He spray painted enamel on a stretch of highway that ran nearly 300 feet. It was a unique continuous frieze created on a pre-existing fence. These two sections of the mural contain some of his iconic spray-painted animations that Haring used throughout his works.

Haring said that “The public needs art, and it is the responsibility of a ‘self-proclaimed artist’ to realize the public needs art, and not to make bourgeois art for the few and ignore the masses…I am interested in making art to be experienced and explored by as many individuals as possible with as many different individual ideas about the given piece with no final meaning attached. The viewer creates the reality, the meaning, the conception of the piece. I am merely a middleman trying to bring ideas together.”

We honor Haring’s intention to create art outside the walls of a gallery or museum and share his work with you.

About Keith Haring

Keith Haring was an American artist, active in the 1980s in New York, who is considered to be the first ‘street artist’ in the sense that is now more widely understood. Haring used a visual language composed of outlined intertwining figures, objects and animals, in his graffiti and street works, often to express deeply held political and social beliefs.

Haring was born in Pittsburgh, where he would study commercial art before losing interest and taking a maintenance job at Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. There, surrounded by important works of contemporary art, he rekindled his passion and developed his style, culminating in his first one man show there in 1978.

He moved to New York, where he would become close friends with the artists Jean-Michel Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Maripol and the performer Madonna. Relatively quickly, he began to attract attention for his subway drawings and his easily recognized calligraphy, and he participated in the prestigious Whitney Biennial in 1983. He made over 50 public murals during the 1980s, becoming something of an establishment figure despite the subversive nature of his work.

Haring was concerned with breaking down the barriers between high and low art, and what work he did sell he sold cheaply, prioritizing the distribution of his ideas over profit. He opened a shop, ‘Pop Shop’ in SoHo, and used it to further awareness about safe sex, the anti-apartheid movement and the growing epidemic of crack-cocaine use. Haring was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988, prompting him to set up a foundation tasked with increasing AIDS awareness and to spend his last years generating activism over the subject.

Keith Haring died in 1990 at the age of only 32, leaving an enormous legacy of work and influence which continues to be widely felt. His work is held in the collections of MoMA and the Whitney Museum in New York, and the Pompidou Centre in Paris amongst many others.

Fast Facts presented by 

  • This is a portion of an expansive mural that Keith Haring created on the FDR Highway in Manhattan in 1984.
  • Keith Haring was a prominent activist during the AIDS epidemic (he eventually died from AIDS related complications in 1990).
  • A sort of interesting parallel is that Dr. Fauci was the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases during the AIDS epidemic, just as he has continued to be throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Haring strongly believed that art should be for the masses rather than the elite, which we honored by placing the piece in the window so that people do not have to pay to see it– sort of our gift to Chicago.