Keith Haring’s linework has graced subterranean tunnels and art’s loftiest exhibition halls. This month, however, marks his first museum retrospective in Los Angeles. “Keith Haring: Art is for Everybody” animates 10 galleries at the Broad, the culmination of a decade of effort first started by the museum’s namesake founder Eli Broad—the late businessman who got his start as a collector buying the work of Haring and his downtown friends in the 1980s.
Despite the commercial successes of Haring’s approach to accessible art—like his 1986 Pop Shop—“Art is For Everybody” honors Haring’s political activism. The show features more than 120 artworks and relics that offer shocks of topical vigor, both on and off the canvas, from paintings to experimental videos, ephemera and more. In addition to drawing from its own holdings, the Broad has secured 67 loans from the Keith Haring Foundation and 42 from private collectors.
“The exhibition offers the opportunity to see work from the full arc of the artist’s career,” curator and exhibitions manager Sarah Loyer told Artnet News. This includes work Haring made as a student at the School of Visual Arts, through to his passing at age 31 from AIDS-related illness.
“Art is for Everybody” opens with a striped room highlighting Haring’s Day-Glo paintings. Music culled from his mixtapes transports viewers to Tony Shafrazi Gallery circa 1982. After exploring Haring’s affinity for the graffiti scene’s many moving parts, like hip-hop and breakdancing, the show illustrates how his work grew more fervent with time.
“He addressed topics from nuclear disarmament during the Cold War Era to religion at a time when the Christian right promoted abstinence-only education despite the growing AIDS epidemic, as well as police brutality, racism, patriarchy, and capitalism,” Loyer said.
The show closes with Haring’s AIDS activism, then presents a spread of work by downtown art stars like George Condo and Jean Michel Basquiat, who collaborated with the force that was Keith Haring.
In organizing the show, Loyer came to appreciate that Haring worked with the “confident line” as his primary medium. “If you look closely, you can see it change over time, from the earliest spray-painted works to intricate compositions filling massive unstretched tarpaulins,” she said. Though “Art is for Everybody” offers universal delights, like a crown Haring helped create for Grace Jones and the pink leather suit Madonna wore to his 1984 birthday party, the show chiefly demonstrates Haring’s ability to blend criticism with optimism through many resounding lines.
After its showing at The Broad, “Keith Haring: Art is for Everybody” will travel to the Art Gallery of Ontario in Canada. Take a peek below.