Exploring the urgent activism of a pop culture icon, Keith Haring: Art Is for Everybody opens at the AGO Nov. 8

Keith Haring, Untitled, 1982. Enamel and Dayglo on metal, 182.9 × 228.6 × 3.8 cm. Private collection © Keith Haring Foundation

TORONTO — A pop culture icon, synonymous with New York in the 1980s, Keith Haring’s bold images of barking dogs, dancing figures and radiant babies, have become part of our visual vocabulary. Opening Nov. 8, 2023, at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), the revealing new retrospective Keith Haring: Art Is for Everybody goes far beyond the familiar, to explore the artist’s foundational commitment to social justice. Organized by The Broad, Los Angeles, and curated by Sarah Loyer, Curator and Exhibitions Manager, Art Is for Everybody is presented at the AGO by Georgiana Uhlyarik, Fredrik S. Eaton, Curator of Canadian Art.

The first exhibition of Haring’s work to be shown in Canada in more than 25 years, and reverberating with energy and love, Art Is for Everybody features more than 200 artworks and ephemera, including large-scale paintings on tarpaulin and canvas, sculptures, works on paper, videos, archival materials and representations of his famed subway drawings. Surveying Haring’s brief but intense decade-long career, the exhibition reveals an artist who used his art and celebrity to protest apartheid in South Africa, raise awareness of the crack cocaine epidemic and the AIDS pandemic and to denounce racism, capitalism, nuclear war, environmental degradation and the harmful impact of technology and mass media.

“With the words Art Is for Everbody, Haring summarized his approach to art and life. He chose imagery that was as direct as possible and he met people where they were – on the street, in the subway, and in dance clubs. He shared his work on posters, T-shirts and buttons. Be it a line drawing of two figures entwined in a loving embrace, a hungry capitalist pig, or bleak warnings of nuclear destruction – the experience of seeing his large-scale work in person, is both a joyful jolt and a call to action,” says Georgiana Uhlyarik, AGO’s Fredrik S. Eaton Curator of Canadian Art. “We think we know who Keith Haring was – however, through this exhibition audiences will see his depth and ongoing impact, and realize his causes are still our causes, from the power of love and music to the necessity of speaking against injustice.”

On view on level 4 of the AGO, Art Is for Everyone brings together significant loans of art and ephemera from the Keith Haring Foundation, New York and The Broad, Los Angeles, with rarely seen works from numerous public and private collections. Ranging from his early days in New York City and the quick and impactful subway drawings Haring called “a public gift to the world”, to his breakout show at Tony Shafrazi Gallery, in Soho in 1982 to his (intentionally) Unfinished Painting (1989), Art Is for Everybody is organized in a loose chronology, and explores pertinent themes. The expansive exhibition features immersive elements, including a gallery lit by Day Glo paint, set to a soundtrack of songs from Haring’s personal mixtapes, featuring Eric B. & Rakim, the Beastie Boys, Aretha Franklin and Grace Jones.

Featured artworks include:

  • Photographs of Haring working in the New York City subway by the artist Tseng Kwong Chi
  • Video works including 1979’s Painting Myself in a Corner and A Circle Play, footage of Bill T. Jones’ collaboration with Haring and his 1982 Times Square animation
  • A selection of Haring’s early tabloid cut-out works on paper critical of Ronald Reagan and early journals
  • Snake Totem (1984), a metal sculpture created by Haring and jewelry designer David Spada for Grace Jones’s Interview magazine photoshoot with Robert Mapplethorpe
  • Two monumental carved wood sculptures that during the artist’s lifetime were featured at parties at the Paradise Garage nightclub
  • An Untitled painting, exclusively shown only at the AGO, used for the cover of David Bowie’s 1983 single Without You
  • A pink leather suit painted by Haring in collaboration with LA II and worn by Madonna
  • Haring’s 11 metre long tarpaulin mural, Untitled (1987), courtesy the Keith Haring Foundation, New York, affectionately known as “Devil Nose
  • The Red Room (1988), an epic send up of Matisse’s 1908 painting of the same name, featuring references to Coco Chanel
  • A selection of posters Haring made in support of the anti-apartheid movement and about the AIDS crisis, including a poster for ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power

Keith Haring: Art is for Everybody, a 256 page, fully illustrated hardcover catalogue, co-published by The Broad and Delmonico Books, accompanies the exhibition. Featuring essays by The Broad’s Sarah Loyer, Kimberly Drew and Tom Finkelpearl; a roundtable conversation with Patti Astor, Kenny Scharf, and Kermit Oswald; and reflections by George Condo, Julia Gruen, Bill T Jones, Ann Magnuson, Tony Shafrazi and Gil Vazquez.  The catalogue will be available in shopAGO for $84.00 CAD ahead of the exhibition opening.

Inspired by Haring’s The Pop Shop, first opened in 1986 in the SoHo neighbourhood of New York, the exhibition includes a display of archival ephemera from that store. In addition, shopAGO’s satellite retail shop features a selection of exhibition-inspired merchandise for sale including prints, textiles, gifts and homewaresItems will be available on the shopAGO website beginning November 7, 2023.

Admission to Keith Haring: Art Is for Everybody is a benefit for the AGO Community. To enter, show your AGO Membership or Annual Pass. AGO Members see it first, beginning November 8, 2023. Annual Pass holders see it beginning November 11, 2023. Annual Passes are only $35 ($5 more than General Admission) and include free access to the AGO Collection and all special exhibitions for twelve months. Annual Passes are free for visitors aged 14 to 25 and children 18 and under can visit for free when accompanying an AGO Member or Annual Pass holder. Admission is always free for Indigenous Peoples. The exhibition runs until March 17, 2024. For more details on how to become a Member or Annual Passholder, visit AGO.ca.

Programming highlights:

AGO Art Bash
On Thursday, September 28, from 8 p.m. to late, Art Bash! The museum’s signature fundraising event returns, presented by Tricon Residential.  This exciting one-night-only gala is inspired by the art of KAWS and Keith Haring. Tickets are on sale now. For more details, visit AGOArtBash.ca.

Senior Social: Art by Keith Haring
On Tuesday, Oct. 10 from 1p.m. to 2:30 p.m., seniors are invited to chat, learn and make as part of a virtual Keith Haring-inspired artmaking workshop. AGO Members receive a discount. To register and for more details, visit AGO.ca/events/seniors-social-inspired-keith-haring

Painting Explorations: The Art of Keith Haring
Beginning Saturday, October 14, in this 5-week studio workshop, designed for students with some experience in painting, participants will explore abstract painting techniques inspired by Keith Haring. AGO Members receive a discount. To register and for more details, visit AGO.ca/learn/courses/painting-explorations-inspired-keith-haring

Art-as-therapy workshops
On Saturday, November 18, from 10:30 a.m. to noon, inspired by Keith Haring’s socially conscious art, the AGO presents an adult workshop fostering well-being through art making. Led by trained art-therapists, participants will have the opportunity to play and self-reflect. AGO Members receive a discount. To register and for more details, visit AGO.ca/events/art-everybody-inspired-keith-haring

AGO Friday Nights presents Keith Haring: Art Is for Everybody opening party
On Friday, November 17 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., in partnership with Yohomo, the AGO celebrates the opening of Keith Haring: Art Is for Everybody with an all ages night of art, music and style. Legendary New York DJ Lina Bradford will perform. Free with General Admission. For more details visit, AGO.ca/events/ago-friday-nights-celebrating-keith-haring-art-everybody

Bold Lines: Exploring Keith Haring
Beginning Sunday, November 19, in this 5-week studio workshop for youths ages 14-18, students will create drawings, paintings and prints inspired by Keith Haring’s line work. All materials included. AGO Members receive a discount. To register and for more details, visit AGO.ca/learn/courses/bold-lines-exploring-keith-haring

Library & Archives Unshelved
On Wednesday, November 29 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., AGO Librarian Donald Rance invites visitors to the Marvin Gelber Prints & Drawing Centre, to explore the AGO’s collection of artist books and multiples, including some by Keith Haring.  Free with General Admission.

Additional programming details, including talks, screenings and studio courses, to be announced in January as part of AGO’s winter programming.

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