Keith Haring mural unexpectedly unveiled in Manhattan


“Fiorucci Walls,” painted by Keith Haring and Angel Ortiz (LA II), is now on display at the NY City Center. (photo by Valentina Di Liscia for Hyperallergic)

It’s not uncommon for murals by New York artist and activist Keith Haring to surface under unlikely circumstances, sometimes after spending years in hiding or unknown to the general public. Part of the magic of Haring’s work, whose unique blend of pop and graffiti elements and wavy animated forms often convey important socio-political messages, is his ability to be rediscovered and given new meaning over and over again.

This is the case with “Fiorucci Walls,” a massive panel painted by Haring and artist LA II (Angel Ortiz) in 1983, now on display unexpectedly at the New York City Center in Midtown Manhattan – the first time it is never seen in New York. . On loan from Chang Mai’s MACo Museum for the theater’s 2021-2022 season, the mural was installed in the Shuman Lounge near the entrance, where the public can admire it before a performance or during intermission.

The panel was originally created as a site-specific performance of the Fiorucci store in Milan in 1983. (Image courtesy New York City Center)
A detail of the panel, which was restored in 1991 (author’s photo for Hyperallergic)

Haring began collaborating with LA II, short for “Little Angel Two,” in the early 1980s. There was something about the Lower East Side graffiti artist’s tag style that stood out from Haring; it was “as close as the western world came to a form of stylized writing similar to eastern calligraphy,” he wrote in a journal Entrance. Approached by the late Italian designer Elio Fiorucci to take over his 5,000 square foot outpost in Milan, which served as both a store and exhibition space for avant-garde artists, Haring enlisted the help of LA II, then 16, to help her undress. its walls and turn them into art.

“We started to combine our styles to create an overall surface of interwoven lines,” Haring continued. “Our first visit to Milan in 1983 was to spray paint the entire Firoucci store. We painted it in 13 hours.

The installation, whose central motif features twin figures reminiscent of the designer’s double cherub logo, was completed in 1984. Fiorucci kept the panels for decades; the piece on display at the City Center was restored in 1991.

NY City Center at West 55th Street in Manhattan (author photo for Hyperallergic)

Haring is perhaps best known for his interventions in New York subway stations and his exterior murals addressing social issues, from the AIDS crisis to drugs and inequality – such as “Crack is Wack”, painted by both. sides of a handball court wall in Harlem River Park in 1986.

But he has also produced many works in situ in public interiors, such as the Fiorucci panel and its famous “1986”.Pop Shop”Boutique in downtown Manhattan. As art historian Amy Raffel writes in her artist monograph published this year, Haring “believed that installation was a universal way to experience art that could be enjoyed by anyone, anywhere, regardless of education or status, because of its ability to affect an individual. physical. ”This summer, the Barcelona government stepped in to help recover an original by Haring that was hidden behind a DJ booth in the former Ars Studio club, impromptuously made using leftover red paint from it. ‘a larger fresco commissioned by the city in 1989.

Framed portraits of Haring by Jeannette Montgomery Barron are installed outside the salon. (author’s photo for Hyperallergic)

Outside the Shuman Salon, a series of black and white portraits of Haring by Jeannette Montgomery Barron completes the presentation of the mural. Barron photographed the artist in her Lower Broadway studio in the spring of 1985. She captures Haring immersed in her own work of art, surrounded by her distinctive patterns and wearing a t-shirt printed with the message “Free South Africa” ​​based on a painting supporting the anti-apartheid movement. His expressive personality is also in the spotlight.

“Every inch of the walls was covered with his drawings, made with a magic marker, so it couldn’t have been easier to decide on the setting,” Barron noted. “He immediately followed suit, like a model, without prompting. All I had to do was catch the right moment.

A photograph by Jeannette Montgomery Barron, from the series “Keith Haring” (1985) (author’s photo for Hyperallergic)

Unveiled just in time for the theater’s Fall for Dance festival and the expected return of in-person performances after more than a year of pandemic challenges, the photographs of “Fiorucci Walls” and Barron will be available until 2022. All ticket holders attending a performance at Downtown can experience the mural, but the venue will also open its doors to the general public for visits from noon to 6 p.m. on October 29-30 and November 5-6.

“The New York City Center has served New York City for nearly 80 years by providing access to the performing arts for everyone,” said Arlene Shuler, president and CEO of the NY City Center at Hyperallergic. “As we make this memorable return to in-person performances this season, we have the chance to exhibit the work of an icon of the New York art scene who has also sought to make her art accessible to all.”

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