Keith Haring: The Political Line

Aug 11, 2014

Painting of red figure breaking black line with green detail.

Keith Haring, Untitled, 1982. Vinyl ink on vinyl tarpaulin. Private collection. All Haring works © Keith Haring Foundation.

de Young \ November 8, 2014‒February 16, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO (August 11, 2014)—The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco are pleased to present Keith Haring: The Political Line, which will open on November 8, 2014 at the de Young. This is the first American exhibition to assess the political dimension and scope of Keith Haring’s artistic concerns. Working across a variety of media, including subway drawings, paintings and sculptures, Haring (1958–1990) devoted himself to messages of social justice and change.

Keith Haring: The Political Line will have its U.S. premiere at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and is the first major Haring show on the West Coast in nearly two decades. Many of the works are on loan from The Keith Haring Foundation, New York, with supplemental loans from public and private collections. Several pieces have not been published or on public view since the artist’s death in 1990. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s director Colin B. Bailey notes, “We are particularly pleased to profile Keith Haring’s artwork in San Francisco; we sense that it will appeal to a younger generation who will appreciate his honest and passionate commitment to addressing contemporary issues through art.”

The Political Line is based on guest curator Dieter Buchhart’s exhibition of the same title, which was presented at the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris in the summer of 2013. The de Young exhibition is curated by Dieter Buchhart in collaboration with Julian Cox, founding curator of photography and chief administrative curator at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

“It is amazing that the question of social justice and change that Keith Haring devoted himself to has not been addressed before in a major exhibition,” says Dieter Buchhart. “Haring understood that art was for everybody—he fought for the individual and against dictatorship, racism and capitalism. He was no utopian, but he had a dream that ‘nothing is an end, because it always can be the basis for something new and different.’”

The Political Line will feature more than 130 works of art including large scale paintings (on tarpaulins and canvases), sculptures and a number of the artist’s subway drawings, among other works. The exhibition will create a narrative that explores the artist’s responses to nuclear disarmament, racial inequality, the excesses of capitalism, environmental degradation and others issues of deep personal concern to the artist.

“This show brings a new gravitas to Haring’s career,” says Julian Cox. “Haring was always extremely thoughtful about what he could accomplish, and the work here, displayed alongside entries from his diaries and other archival material, illuminates how deeply Haring was engaged in the political realm.”

The de Young is proud to bring this exhibition to San Francisco, where Haring’s work has long been a part of the city’s visual culture. Haring created works for diverse venues in San Francisco during his lifetime, including murals for DV8, an underground club once located in the South of Market neighborhood and a huge, multipanel painting for the South of Market Childcare Center. Haring’s outdoor sculpture “Untitled (Three Dancing Figures)” (1989), located at Third Street and Howard, is a prominent feature of the Moscone Center; and his triptych altarpiece “The Life of Christ” (1990) is installed in the AIDS Chapel at Grace Cathedral.

Haring fought tirelessly to end the AIDS epidemic in his work and personal life. He established The Keith Haring Foundation in 1989 and enlisted his imagery during the last years of his life to speak about his own illness and generate activism and awareness about AIDS. By the time of his death, at age 31, he had achieved international fame. His influence on his own generation and those that have followed is a testament to his enduring vision.

Exhibition Organization
This exhibition is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Director’s Circle: Penny and James George Coulter. Curator’s Circle: Sloan and Roger Barnett, Ray and Dagmar Dolby Family Fund, Holly Johnson Harris and Parker Harris, and the Shimmon Family. Conservator’s Circle: The Buena Vista Fund of Horizons Foundation. Patron’s Circle: The Keith Haring Foundation. Supporter’s Circle: Juliet de Baubigny, and Richard and Peggy Greenfield. Media Sponsor: 7x7 magazine.

Exhibition Catalogue
Keith Haring: The Political Line, published on the occasion of the major exhibition of the same name at the de Young and produced in collaboration with the Keith Haring Foundation, explores the artist’s engagement with politics, the urban landscape, the art world and pop culture. Featuring reproductions of more than 200 works of art, an opening photo gallery by Haring’s friends and photographer Tseng Kwong Chi, four essays expanding upon the political aspects of Haring’s art, and conversations with those close to the artist, this catalogue provides intimate and broad views into Haring’s life, work and political convictions.

Visiting \ de Young
Golden Gate Park, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco, CA 94118. Open 9:30 a.m.–5:15 p.m. Tuesdays–Sundays. Open select holidays. Closed most Mondays.

Admission Tickets
Tickets start at $25 for adults and include general admission; discounts are available for seniors, students, and youths. Premium tickets are available. Members and children five and under are admitted free. Prices subject to change. Tickets available now at

About Keith Haring
Keith Haring (1958-90) was preeminent among the downtown New York City community of young artists, performers, and musicians whose work responded to urban street culture. During a brief but intense career that spanned the 1980s, Haring’s work was featured in over 100 solo and group exhibitions. In 1986 alone, he was the subject of more than 40 newspaper and magazine articles. Haring also devoted much of his time to public works. He produced more than 50 public artworks between 1982 and 1989, in dozens of cities around the world, many of which were created for charities, hospitals, children’s day care centers and orphanages. Keith Haring died in New York in February 1990 of AIDS-related illnesses. Although his career was brief, his imagery remains a universally recognized visual language of the 20th and 21st century.

About The Keith Haring Foundation
Established by the artist in 1989, The Keith Haring Foundation makes grants to not-for-profit groups that engage in charitable and educational activities. In accordance with Haring’s wishes, the Foundation concentrates its giving in two areas: The support of organizations that provide educational opportunities to disadvantaged children and those that engage in education, prevention and care with respect to AIDS and HIV infection.

About the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, comprising the de Young in Golden Gate Park and the Legion of Honor in Lincoln Park, are the largest public arts institution in San Francisco.

The de Young originated from the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition and was established as the Memorial Museum. Thirty years later, it was renamed in honor of Michael H. de Young, a longtime champion of the museum. The present copper-clad landmark building, designed by Herzog and de Meuron, opened in October 2005. It showcases the institution’s significant collections of American painting, sculpture, and decorative arts from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries; art from Africa, Oceania, and the Americas; costume and textile arts; and international modern and contemporary art.

The Legion of Honor was inspired by the French pavilion, a replica of the Palais de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris, at San Francisco’s Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915. The museum opened in 1924 in the Beaux Arts–style building designed by George Applegarth on a bluff overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Its holdings span 4,000 years and include European painting, sculpture, and decorative arts; ancient art from the Mediterranean basin; and the largest collection of works on paper in the American West.

Images from all exhibitions and museums available upon request.

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