In addition to Keith’s artwork, he was always an activist, full of humanity and driven by a strong set of values about inclusion and fairness. In 1985, he produced a series of works protesting apartheid in South Africa, including this one, which was used during demonstrations at the time.
An amazing mural (shown in the story's main image) was also made by Keith in 1986 and is on the side of a huge building in the produce market district of Amsterdam. I took this picture a few years ago, and it felt like a bit of a pilgrimage to find this original work, which is hidden away in an area not visited often by tourists. The mural was painted directly onto the brick wall with no preliminary sketches, but somehow manages to fit the 12 x 15-metre space perfectly.
On the impact of his work Keith shared:
“All kinds of people would stop and look at the huge drawing and many were eager to comment on their feelings toward it. This was the first time I realized how many people could enjoy art if they were given the chance. These were not the people I saw in the museums or in the galleries but a cross section of humanity that cut across all boundaries.”
Keith Haring died on 16 February 1990. He was just 31 years old and succumbed to AIDS related health complications. 1,000 people attended a memorial a few days later in his honour.
People who knew Keith say that he worked at a furious pace, producing huge volumes of work, almost as if Keith knew he was not going to be around very long. Indeed, Keith had a huge impact in the world; Keith is also someone from my youth that is still part of my life now and therefore someone I want to honour this LGBT+ History Month.