Keith Haring ICON at Rhodes Contemporary Art.

Perfectly coinciding with the Tate retrospective, Pride Month and the beginning of summer, we’ve filled the gallery with a colourful and energetic collection of work by the iconic artist: Keith Haring.

 Rhodes Contemporary Art, front view.


Last Thursday, 6th June, we hosted the private view for our first Keith Haring solo exhibition: “ICON”. The show is a collection of paintings, posters and prints by Keith Haring, as well as a selection of artefacts such as a doodled pair of trainers and a signed jigsaw puzzle. The show also features the photography of Martha Cooper, who knew Haring, documenting his historic painting of the Bowery wall, NYC. ‘ICON’ is a portrait of Haring; his timeless imagery, message and character.


Haring was born in 1958 in Pennsylvania and later moved to New York. During his time in New York, Haring started developing work outside the institutional exhibition space and commercial galleries, creating murals in urban spaces including the New York subway, clubs and the streets of Downtown New York.


Haring became associated with many well-known artists of the time, including Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat. He also became a part of the underground LGBT scene of the era and collaborated with performers such as Madonna in the East Village alternative space: Club 57. All during his short lived, but intense, career Keith Haring (alongside Basquiat) eventually became a pioneer for graffiti art, which opened the path for many other graffiti and urban artists of today such as Banksy, Shepard Fairy and Invade leaving this amazing legacy.


In our new exhibition ‘ICON’, we have aimed to recreate the essence of Keith Haring’s iconic ‘POP SHOP’; from Soho NYC in 1986, to Soho London in 2019. Keith Haring originally created the “POP SHOP” as an extension of his practice, as he believed that art should be accessible to a wide audience and variety of people, not just for the privileged minority. Just like the original “POP SHOP”, we have covered several of the gallery walls in Haring’s wall doodles, creating a nostalgic feeling of the turbulent and revolutionary scene of NYC in he 80s. The diversity of the works in “ICON”, in terms of medium, size and pricing pay tribute to Haring’s wishes to connect with a wide audience, not just the art elite.


“A more holistic and basic idea of wanting to incorporate [art] into every part of life, less as an egotistical exercise and more natural somehow. I don’t know how to exactly explain it. Taking it off the pedestal. I’m giving it back to the people, I guess.”[1]


One the highlights of the show, is a stunning wood carving of a radiant baby: “Crawling Radiant Baby Wood Carving”. This wood carving is a unique piece from 1983 signed and dedicated by Keith Haring himself. Due to of its slender body in comparison to the plumper infants seen later in Haring’s work, the piece shows an early depiction of Haring’s technique to illustrate babies. “Crawling Radiant Baby Wood Carving” was a gift to Haring’s fellow artist and long-time friend: Dan Friedman, which includes a dedicated note in the back: "For Dan - Love, Keith 1984".This work was authenticated and is accompanied by a COA from Tony Shafrazi, prior to the establishment of the Haring Authentication Board.


 Unique wood carving with vivid green and yellow dayglo paint. Signed by Haring. 18 x 30.5 x 6cm



On a more affordable note, another great piece is the “Attack on Aids” poster from 1988. The poster is a classic example how Haring used his art to convey and help rising awareness surrounded AIDS and HIV. This piece was published by “Wellness Networks” in 1989 and is signed and numbered by the artist in black marker pen.


Haring was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988, leading him to establish The Keith Haring Foundation, supports non-profit organizations providing research, education and care relating to AIDS and HIV issues, especially in children. Awareness about the condition and his personal experience became the main subject in his works during the latter stage of his career. Keith Haring died in 1990 at the age of 31 due to AIDS related complications.


Throughout his career, Haring carried activist and social messages in his practice, speaking and becoming the voice of his generation in themes such as racism, homophobia, environmental issues, and AIDS awareness.


ICON”will be showing at the gallery until the 3rd of August, providing a cosy, free of entry charge and less intimidating alternative to the big retrospective at The Liverpool which opens this week, saving you from the train ride to Liverpool.


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Alternatively, please pop in and say hi during our opening time and we will happily chat to you about your interests and question about Keith or general enquiries.




[1] Drenger, p. 53


June 26, 2019
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