In June of 1980, I moved to New York. I met Keith Haring that summer at Danceteria, where he was a busboy at the time. He had just done a mural above the staircase there and in the coming months was beginning to make a name for himself because of his subway drawings, which seemed too be everywhere. He was nerdy, a bit awkward, funny, intense, and kinda sexy. We became friendly and had MANY friends in common. I took the Polariods below (which have never been seen before) at his birthday “Party Of Life” in ’84, where Madonna performed Like A Virgin on a bed. After his passing, Madonna dedicated the first night of her Blond Ambition Tour as a benefit concert in Keith’s memory, and donated all proceeds from ticket sales to AIDS charities. Keith would have been 56 today. He is still missed, but his good works continue on through The Keith Haring Foundation that, in addition to representing his work, supports educational opportunities for underprivileged children and finances AIDS research and patient care.
Keith was born in Reading, Pennsylvania on May 4, 1958 and was raised in Kutztown, Pennsylvania. He became interested in drawing and art at an early age and he later studied commercial art from 1976 to 1978 at Pittsburgh’s Ivy School of Professional Art but lost interest in it:
“I’d been convinced to go [to art school] by my parents and guidance counselor. They said that if I was going to seriously pursue being an artist, I should have some commercial-art background. I went to a commercial-art school, where I quickly realized that I didn’t want to be an illustrator or a graphic designer. The people I met who were doing it seemed really unhappy; they said that they were only doing it for a job while they did their own art on the side, but in reality that was never the case–their own art was lost. I quit the school.”
After this, he moved to New York in ’78 and enrolled in the School of Visual Arts (and met fellow students Kenny Scharf and Rodney Alan Greenblat) and majored in painting. He achieved his first major public attention, as I mentioned, with his subway drawings. These were documented by his friend, photographer Tseng Kwong Chi. Around this time, “The Radiant Baby” was born, and as they say – the rest is history. The graphic is of his plaque at The Legacy Project.