Keith Allen Haring (May 4, 1958 – February 16, 1990) was an American artist whose pop art emerged from the New York City graffiti subculture of the 1980s. His animated imagery has “become a widely recognized visual language”. Much of his work includes sexual allusions that turned into social activism by using the images to advocate for safe sex and AIDS awareness.

Haring’s popularity grew from his spontaneous drawings in New York City subways—chalk outlines of figures, dogs, and other stylized images on blank black advertising spaces. After gaining public recognition, he created colorful larger scale murals, many commissioned. He produced more than 50 public artworks between 1982 and 1989, many were created voluntarily for hospitals, day care centers, and schools. In 1986, Haring opened the Pop Shop as an extension of his work. His later work often conveyed political and societal themes— anti-crack, anti-apartheid, safe sex, homosexuality and AIDS—through his own iconography.

niood lists the 10 Most Famous Artworks of Keith Haring:

1. Radiant Baby (from Icons series), 1990

Radiant Baby by Keith Haring for Sale | Guy Hepner

Keith Haring’s Radiant Baby is famous for several reasons:

  1. Signature motif: Radiant Baby is one of Haring’s most recognizable motifs and has become a symbol of his artistic style. It is characterized by a simple, bold, and vibrant design that captures the energy and movement that Haring sought to express in his work.
  2. Pop art and street art movement: Haring emerged as a prominent artist during the 1980s, a time when the pop art and street art movements were flourishing. His art, including the Radiant Baby, was influenced by these movements, and he became an influential figure himself, inspiring subsequent generations of artists.
  3. Social and political themes: Haring’s work often addressed social and political issues of the time, such as the AIDS epidemic, racism, and violence. The Radiant Baby was seen as a symbol of hope, innocence, and the potential for change, thus resonating with audiences on a deeper level.
  4. Accessibility and public art: Haring believed that art should be accessible to all, and he often created public murals and artworks that included the Radiant Baby. This approach to art made his work, including the Radiant Baby, more widely known and admired by a broader audience.
  5. Commercial success and collaborations: Haring’s art, including the Radiant Baby, has been featured in various commercial collaborations, such as with fashion brands, product designs, and advertisements. This exposure has helped to further popularize the Radiant Baby and establish it as a key symbol of Haring’s work.
  6. Legacy: Keith Haring’s untimely death in 1990 at the age of 31 due to AIDS-related complications further solidified his status as an influential artist. His work, including the Radiant Baby, continues to be celebrated and exhibited worldwide, contributing to the ongoing fame of this iconic symbol.

2. Ignorance = Fear, 1989

Keith Haring's Ignorance = Fear: political activism | Art and design | The  Guardian

“Ignorance = Fear” is a famous artwork by Keith Haring, created in 1989, which became an iconic piece for several reasons:

  1. Social and political message: The artwork is a strong statement against ignorance and fear, specifically addressing the AIDS crisis that was rampant during the 1980s. The piece features three figures with their eyes, ears, and mouths covered, symbolizing the unwillingness to see, hear, or speak about the disease. Haring’s artwork was a call for education, communication, and empathy to combat the stigmatization and misinformation surrounding AIDS.
  2. Personal connection: Haring was personally affected by the AIDS crisis, as he himself was diagnosed with the disease in 1988. This artwork reflects his deep understanding of the struggles faced by people living with AIDS and the importance of fighting against ignorance and fear. His own battle with AIDS added an extra layer of poignancy and significance to the artwork.
  3. Activism: Haring was known for his activism, and “Ignorance = Fear” is an example of how he used his art to address social and political issues. His work was widely seen as a powerful tool for raising awareness and promoting positive change, helping to break the silence around taboo subjects.
  4. Artistic style: “Ignorance = Fear” is a prime example of Haring’s distinct artistic style, featuring bold lines, bright colors, and simple yet impactful figures. The design’s visual appeal and clarity help convey the message effectively, making it more accessible to a wider audience.
  5. Legacy and influence: Haring’s untimely death in 1990 at the age of 31 further solidified his status as an influential artist who fearlessly addressed important issues. “Ignorance = Fear” remains a powerful symbol of the fight against AIDS and a reminder of the need for education and understanding to combat discrimination and stigma. The artwork has been reproduced in various forms and continues to be celebrated and exhibited worldwide, contributing to its enduring fame.

3. Crack is Wack, 1986

Crack is Wack - Wikipedia

Keith Haring’s “Crack is Wack” mural is famous for several reasons:

  1. Social commentary: The mural was created in 1986 as a response to the crack cocaine epidemic that was affecting New York City and other urban areas in the United States. Haring used his art to raise awareness about the dangers of crack cocaine and the devastating impact it had on communities. The mural’s powerful message resonated with the public, making it an important symbol of the era.
  2. Public art and accessibility: Like much of Haring’s work, “Crack is Wack” was painted as a public mural on a handball court in Harlem, New York City. Haring believed in making art accessible to all, and by creating this mural in a public space, he reached a wider audience and increased the impact of his message.
  3. Guerrilla art: Haring created the “Crack is Wack” mural without official permission, which was characteristic of the street art and graffiti movement of the time. This act of defiance added to the mural’s significance and fame, highlighting the urgency of addressing the crack cocaine epidemic.
  4. Distinctive style: The “Crack is Wack” mural features Haring’s signature bold lines, bright colors, and energetic figures, making it easily recognizable and visually impactful. This distinctive style contributed to the mural’s popularity and enduring fame.
  5. Preservation and legacy: After Haring’s untimely death in 1990, the “Crack is Wack” mural was restored several times, and it remains a significant piece of public art in New York City. The mural serves as a reminder of Haring’s activism, his contribution to the street art movement, and the need to address social issues through art.

4. Free South Africa, 1985

Free South Africa - Keith Haring — Google Arts & Culture

Keith Haring’s “Free South Africa” is famous for several reasons:

  1. Political statement: Created in 1985, the artwork served as a call to end apartheid, a system of institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination in South Africa. Haring used his art as a platform to raise awareness about the injustice of apartheid and to support the struggle for racial equality and freedom in South Africa.
  2. Global solidarity: Haring’s “Free South Africa” demonstrated solidarity with the anti-apartheid movement, which had gained international attention and support. By creating this artwork, Haring joined the global call for an end to apartheid and contributed to the ongoing conversation about racial injustice.
  3. Art as activism: Keith Haring was known for using his art as a means of activism, addressing various social and political issues. “Free South Africa” is an example of how Haring employed his art to advocate for change and raise awareness about pressing global issues.
  4. Distinctive style: Like much of Haring’s work, “Free South Africa” features his signature bold lines, vivid colors, and dynamic figures. The striking visual impact of the artwork helped to convey the urgency of the message and engage a broader audience.
  5. Legacy: Keith Haring’s untimely death in 1990 has only solidified his status as an influential artist and activist. His work, including “Free South Africa,” continues to be celebrated and exhibited worldwide. The artwork serves as a reminder of Haring’s commitment to using art for social change and his contribution to the global struggle against racial injustice.

5. Montreux, 1983

Keith Haring – Montreux Jazz Festival, 1983 (Pink)… | Hang-Up Gallery

“Montreux” is a painting by the late American artist Keith Haring, which has gained fame for its unique blend of bright, bold colors and abstract, graffiti-like imagery. The painting was created in 1983, during Haring’s visit to the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, and captures the energetic, lively atmosphere of the event.

Haring’s distinctive style, which incorporates elements of pop art, graffiti, and street culture, has made him one of the most recognizable artists of the 20th century. “Montreux” is particularly famous for its vibrant color scheme and dynamic composition, which perfectly capture the spirit of the jazz festival and the energy of the crowds.

In addition to its aesthetic appeal, “Montreux” also has historical significance as a reflection of Haring’s artistic and cultural legacy. Haring was a leading figure in the New York City art scene of the 1980s, and his work helped to define the era’s vibrant street art movement.

6. Safe Sex, 1988

Daniel Marcus on Keith Haring's Once Upon a Time, 1989 - Artforum  International

Keith Haring’s “Safe Sex” is a famous artwork created in 1985 that was part of a public service campaign to promote safe sex practices and raise awareness about the AIDS epidemic. The artwork features a bold, graphic design of a person holding a condom, with the words “Safe Sex” written in bold letters.

At the time, the AIDS epidemic was rapidly spreading, and Haring was deeply affected by the devastating impact of the disease on the LGBTQ+ community. He used his art as a platform to promote awareness and encourage people to practice safe sex in order to prevent the spread of the disease.

The “Safe Sex” artwork was part of a larger campaign that included billboards, posters, and other public service announcements. The campaign was highly effective in raising awareness about the importance of safe sex practices and promoting a culture of responsibility and care in sexual relationships.

Today, the “Safe Sex” artwork has become an iconic symbol of the AIDS epidemic and the importance of safe sex practices. It is frequently displayed in museums and galleries around the world, and has become a lasting legacy of Haring’s activism and commitment to social change.

7. Pop Shop III, 1989

4 Pop Shop III by Keith Haring - Guy Hepner | Art Gallery | Prints for Sale  | Chelsea, New York City

Keith Haring’s “Pop Shop III” is famous for its unique blend of commercialism and fine art. The artwork was originally created in 1989 for Haring’s Pop Shop, a retail store in New York City that sold merchandise featuring his iconic designs.

“Pop Shop III” features a brightly colored, cartoon-like image of a person jumping over a fence, surrounded by other playful and whimsical imagery. The design was used on a variety of merchandise sold at the Pop Shop, including t-shirts, buttons, and posters.

The Pop Shop was a groundbreaking concept in its time, as it allowed Haring to bring his art to a wider audience through the sale of affordable merchandise. By making his designs accessible and affordable, Haring was able to spread his message of inclusivity, hope, and social change to a broader audience.

Today, “Pop Shop III” is considered a classic example of Haring’s unique style, which combined elements of pop art, street culture, and graffiti to create a distinctive visual language. The artwork has become a symbol of Haring’s commitment to social change and his desire to make art more accessible and inclusive for all.

8. Andy Mouse, 1986

Keith Haring’s “Andy Mouse” is famous for its unique fusion of two iconic pop culture figures: Andy Warhol and Mickey Mouse. The artwork, created in 1986, features a cartoonish depiction of Warhol’s face with Mickey Mouse ears and nose, holding a camera.

Haring was a close friend and protégé of Warhol, and the “Andy Mouse” image was created as a tribute to the legendary artist following his death in 1987. The artwork combines Haring’s signature style, which incorporates elements of graffiti, street art, and pop culture, with Warhol’s iconic image and his fascination with mass media and consumer culture.

“Andy Mouse” has become one of Haring’s most famous and recognizable works, and is often seen as a commentary on the intersection of art, commerce, and popular culture. The image has been reproduced on a variety of merchandise, including t-shirts, posters, and other items, and has become a lasting symbol of Haring’s artistic legacy and his friendship with Warhol.

9. Growing, 1988

Growing 1 by Keith Haring - Guy Hepner | Art Gallery | Prints for Sale |  Chelsea, New York City

Keith Haring’s “Growing, 1988” is famous for its powerful commentary on the devastating impact of the AIDS epidemic on the LGBTQ+ community. The artwork features a group of figures, rendered in Haring’s signature cartoonish style, struggling to support each other as they grow and transform.

The image can be interpreted as a metaphor for the resilience and strength of the LGBTQ+ community in the face of the AIDS epidemic. Haring, who was openly gay and a vocal advocate for AIDS awareness and prevention, created “Growing” in response to the widespread suffering and loss he witnessed during the epidemic.

The artwork has become an enduring symbol of the AIDS crisis and the struggle for LGBTQ+ rights and visibility. It is often featured in exhibitions and other events related to AIDS awareness and activism, and has become a powerful reminder of the ongoing struggle for equality and social justice.

10. Barking Dog, 1990

Red Dog by Keith Haring from Icons - Guy Hepner | Art Gallery | Prints for  Sale | Chelsea, New York City

The Barking Dog has become one of Haring’s most iconic symbols, first appearing in his New York subway drawing series from 1980–85. It emerged as a symbol of oppression and aggression, acting as a warning to the viewer of the abuses of power that pervade everyday life in America and beyond.

Traditionally used by artists to represent loyalty, companionship and obedience, Haring subverts the symbol of the dog to remind viewers to think critically about those who shout the loudest. Similarly, street artist Banksy can be said to have picked up Haring’s mantle, appropriating symbols such as the barking dog to spread a new message of distrust in figures of authority.