Moments before entering The Broad Museum in Downtown Los Angeles to see Keith Haring’s comprehensive career retrospective Art Is For Everybody, I (coincidentally) received an email reviewing the show. The article was titled Is Art for Everybody? Despite being very familiar with Haring’s work, I wanted to avoid any spoilers, so I waited to read the article; however, as I walked through the exhibit, that headline stuck with me.
The exhibit begins with Keith Haring’s entry into the public consciousness; as a graffiti artist sharing his work for free in the subways and the streets of New York. While his art was primitive and borrowed heavily from folk art, it resonated with people and, very quickly, he was fully immersed in New York City’s early ’80s downtown art scene, creating alongside contemporaries such as Kenny Scharf and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
While not always presented chronologically, the exhibit has a wealth of interesting Haring artifacts; from journals, to show fliers for his earliest exhibits, to pottery, and every imaginable size of canvas.
The infamous video of Haring literally painting himself into a corner is on display at a video station alongside a recreation of his now legendary 1980s New York store, Pop Shop.
At the massive Broad, gallery after gallery is filled with Haring’s extremely colorful, sometimes sexual, socially conscious, and often gigantic art works, many of which are simply Untitled.
As a big fan of Haring’s work, I half-expected to see a “greatest hits” collection of his work that has been previously on display in various retrospectives, and I was pleasantly surprised at how comprehensive the exhibit is, with many works I’d never seen in person before.
That pink suit is amazing!
One work that gave me ‘all the feels,’ as the expression goes, is an unfinished painting (seen above) that Haring started before his death from AIDS in 1990.
But back to the question “is his art for everybody?” These days, when you go to a museum, you find people stopping in front of paintings to text or take a selfie, being completely clueless that they are blocking the view of the art for others. There are also the inevitable ‘photo shoots’ taking place in front of colorful works, and this exhibit, sadly, is chock-full of that.
However, I also saw parents showing their children what I assume to be their first exposure to art. I was also happy to see a young girl with her sketch pad, and I observed people of all ages in awe of the exhibit, myself included.
With The Broad tacking on a $25 fee for this special exhibit, perhaps Art Is for Everybody is not as inclusive as it should be, but it’s a catchier title than “If you put your phone down long enough, there’s a whole world of imagination just waiting to be explored at the Keith Haring exhibition.”
Following its debut at The Broad, Keith Haring: Art Is for Everybody will travel to the Art Gallery of Ontario, in Toronto, from November 11, 2023 to March 17, 2024, and to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis from April 27 to September 8, 2024.