BOZAR will host an impressive exhibition about the work of Keith Haring - the most important New York artist of his generation. We are happy to kick things off with a mouth-watering opening party.
Talk to anyone about Keith Haring and the one
thing you hear over and over again is that Haring was a party animal; maybe even
the biggest one in New York. Back in those days, that title wasn’t taken for
granted. When Keith Haring arrived in New York in 1978 at the age of twenty,
the legendary Studio 54 discotheque
- the mother of all clubs - was the epicentre of the world. But it didn't stop
there: all punks (and Blondie and Talking Heads and Sonic Youth) came together in CBGB,
hip hop sprang up in the Bronx, no wave was born in Mudd Club and Tier 3, Madonna and remix pioneer Jellybean Benitez prepared themselves
to dominate pop music for over a decade in Danceteria,
Club 57 became a renowned cabaret
venue, and by the mid-1980s the house mecca Paradise Garage, with DJs like Larry
Levan and François Kevorkian,
had taken the place of Studio 54 as the most influential club in the world. That
said, Keith Haring was a regular everywhere. Literally everywhere.
Although Haring was undoubtedly not the only one: the influential power of the New York music and art world at the time came down to the fact that almost everything took place on a few (back then still cheap) square kilometres in Manhattan - the East Village, the Lower East Side and Soho. Party photos from that period include future pop icons like Madonna, Grace Jones and Debbie Harry, as well as leading artists like Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol, hip hop gods like Fab Five Freddy, Afrika Bambaataa and LL Cool J, and fashion designers like Dapper Dan and Diane von Furstenberg. And hey, isn't that Ai Weiwei in the corner? And David Bowie? Together with Nile Rodgers and Samuel L. Jackson? The cross-pollination was organic and awe-inspiring - it's still shimmering today - and the brand-new TV channel MTV was ready to teleport everything that was happening in New York at the time to every corner of the world.
Wondering what all that sounded like? The
British record label Soul Jazz Records
released a three-part vinyl with songs from Haring's club years for the
occasion of the Keith Haring exhibition in BOZAR (and earlier also Tate Liverpool).
But of course, the 80's also had one big, disgusting downside: AIDS, the disease from which Haring died on February 16, 1990. Especially in New York, AIDS demanded an immense number of notorious victims because the city was, next to San Francisco, a magnet for the LGBT community from all over the US (or even just the world). And while Ronald Reagan in the White House did everything he could to ignore homosexuality and the AIDS epidemic, the New York art and music world attended a funeral almost every week.
This affected Keith Haring, and he became more activist towards the end of his life, both in his work as well as in his public life. Haring became one of the most critical mouthpieces of the American LGBT community, and he did everything he could to raise awareness about AIDS worldwide. As cheerful, funny and simple as his work sometimes seems, Haring left behind an oeuvre that is moving, striking and ingenious.