An expert’s guide to Keith Haring: four must-read books on the US Pop artist

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Keith Haring’s distinctive thick-line cartoon style is now enmeshed in the public consciousness, endlessly reproduced on t-shirts and trainers, and a reminder of how the 1980s New York art scene adopted the languages of popular and street culture. A new exhibition opening this month at The Broad in Los Angeles will focus on the artist’s ambition to make work with widespread appeal, which he wrote about in his journals. The catalogue accompanying the show includes essays and conversations with the artist’s friends and contemporaries, providing “new perspectives on Haring’s work”, says the curator Sarah Loyer. She adds that a new biography by Brad Gooch is due to be published next year, which will leave “no stone unturned”. In the meantime, the Loyer has selected four must-read books all about the life and career of Keith Haring.

Keith Haring Journals (2010) by Keith Haring

“The journals give key insight into Haring’s life and work, writing about his thinking throughout the years, from just before he moved to New York through to the end of his life. He writes extensively on his beliefs about art, important influences on his practice, and his experiences as he came to fame and travelled around the world for exhibitions and public projects.”

Keith Haring’s Line: Race and the Performance of Desire (2020) by Ricardo Montez

“Ricardo Montez writes extensively about Haring’s relationship to race in the 1980s and provides a critical contemporary perspective on the subject, shining a light on Haring’s collaborations with Bill T. Jones, LA II (Angel Ortiz), Tseng Kwong Chi and Grace Jones, among others.”

Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing (2017) by Kay Haring

“Written by Haring’s sister, this is a great biography on Haring for young audiences that humanises the experience of a world-renowned artist by telling his inspirational story from childhood onwards.”

Keith Haring: The Authorized Biography (1992) by John Gruen

“Published soon after the artist’s death in 1990 at the age of 31 of an Aids-related illness, this biography tells the story of Haring’s life and career through reflections by the artist himself, his family and friends, and many of the people who knew him, from artist Roy Lichtenstein and the psychologist and psychedelics-advocate Timothy Leary, to pop star Madonna and beat poet William Burroughs. It covers significant ground, discussing his childhood, coming out, and many of his most important artistic influences.”

Keith Haring: Art Is for Everybody, The Broad, Los Angeles, 27 May-8 October

Keith Haring: Art Is for Everybody, Sarah Loyer et al, Delmonico Books/The Broad, 256pp, $60 (hb), published in June

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