Keith Haring at the Tokyo Pop Shop
Keith Haring had the great good fortune to become one of the most iconic and recognizable of the downtown artists of the 1980s—and while it was fairly obvious that he was gay and that his sexuality played some role in his work, a lot of people may be unaware that, on certain occasions, he expressed that side of himself far more fully in his art. Not all of it was fit for T-shirts or refrigerator magnets, in other words.
In 1989 Haring took over the second-floor bathroom of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Center on 13th Street in Greenwich Village—the exact address is 208 West 13th Street—and turned every blank surface he could find into an astonishing tableau of his familiar figures throbbing with every kind of imaginable urge. The title of the mural is “Once Upon a Time.” In effect, it’s a pre-AIDS bacchanal, and the images are at once reminiscent of a smutty Hieronymus Bosch and (this might just be me) the stately public friezes that Gustav Klimt instigated in fin-de-siècle Vienna, which at the time were considered shocking (they don’t seem shocking today). There’s a lil’ Picasso in there, too.
A year and a half ago, the restoration on the site was completed—the space has been converted from a bathroom to a meeting room. According to the LGBT Community Center’s website, the mural is currently “under wraps” because of construction, but ordinarily it’s available to be viewed by the public (however, I’m not certain of the viewing times; it’s not a museum, so it’s probably best to call in advance).
These pictures are pretty NSFW—I think they’re very nice but your cubicle co-worker might not share the opinion.
Brief clip about Haring and the “We the People” mural in South Philadelphia—colored in by children:
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Keith Haring discusses the mass marketing of his art
Keith Haring and Grace Jones: flesh graffiti and the Queen Of The Vampires