In 1987, American artist Keith Haring painted a temporary mural at the Cranbrook Art Museum. Known for his 2D-iconography and use of primary color, Haring created the piece with color washes, dark line drawing, and paint brushes, which he nailed to the gallery’s wall upon completion. Thirty years later, Andrew Blauvelt, director of the museum, jokes that while the mural was always intended to be temporary, Cranbrook probably shouldn’t have painted over it as the work marked a shift in Haring’s style.
“[The mural] looks like a Haring, but it looks like a different kind of Haring,” he says. “He incorporated some of the characters that you would see in his previous work, and then you would find almost monstrous-like figures.”
Remembering the late artist’s life, the Bloomfield Hills museum is opening an exhibit on Nov. 17, titled Keith Haring: The End of the Line.
The exhibit will feature prints the artist created with text by poet William S. Burroughs, a thesis film he made in college, photos of his infamous subway drawings, and, of course, documentation of the Cranbrook mural.
Haring’s approach to the piece, according to Blauvelt, may have partly been influenced by AIDS. Haring was diagnosed with the disease in 1988 and died from it two years later.
“There was such devastation in the cultural scene in New York [because of the AIDS epidemic],” Blauvelt says. “It would have greatly affected his psychology, I think.”
Blauvelt also believes the placement of the mural in the museum, opposed to walls of New York’s subway system, may have given Haring freedom to explore his artistic abilities. To coincide with this connection, the museum will also be debuting work by artists Jean-Michel Basquiat, Ryan McGinness, and Maya Stovall this month.
“The street is a really important source of inspiration for artists,” Blauvelt says. “I hope [visitors] get an expanded view of what happens when you mix the street and art together.”