Keith Haring’s enduring legacy as an artist has to be his synthesis of social activism and artistic endeavor. He was one of a number of emerging artists in the eighties (such as Basquiat) whose focus were on contemporary issues such as political injustice, war, sexuality, race and poverty. For Haring however, he took this subversive statement a whole step further by finding a natural home for his art outside on the streets of New York, in the form of collages, graffiti, and murals.
While his ‘shining baby’ as well as his animal-figures, ‘bubble-men’ and flying saucers may be easy to identify in silk screen prints or reproduced on walls, it is less well known that he had a fantastic interest in print making as well. During just a short ten year career (he sadly died through AIDs-related complications in 1990) he also made 60 separate print editions of his work, using lithograph, direct printmaking, aquatint, etchings and embossing techniques. His strong black-line work, often of simplistic figures, lent themselves very clearly to the art of print, and have thus since been reproduced on materials as diverse as clothes, ceramics, cushions, and objet-d’art.
When searching for Haring collectibles, there are perhaps a smaller amount of limited edition compendiums of his works – perhaps this is due to his recent place in history, or the public, outdoor nature of his work – but there is however a wealth of limited edition posters and prints available. This is helped by the fact that Haring set up the Pop Shop, selling his own printed merchandise, limited edition posters and unique prints. For an example, consider the spiral-bound exhibition catalogue for Haring’s 1982 Tony Shafrazi Gallery exhibition, of which two thousand were made.
Haring’s interest in print however, and the fantastic energy and vigor which he applied to his work led him to produce several limited editions in collaboration with galleries or printers. A classic work would be the art book Fault Lines 1986, which feature Haring’s illustrative explorations of sexuality, homoeroticism, power and intimacy. There were only 250 of these fine art prints ever produced, each numbered and signed by the artist.
Haring, Keith Shafrazi. Keith Haring. Tony Shafrazi Gallery. Ny (1983). 2nd edition, 5000 copies
Haring, Keith. Art In Transit. Harmony Books - New York (1984). color photographs of Haring's work in the subway
Haring, Keith Littmann. Haring Keith - Editions On Paper 1982-1990. Klaus Littman et Edition Cantz (1993). The complete collection of Keith Haring's printed works including lithographs, silk screens, etchings, screen prints, aquatints, and woodcuts