Photography: Drew Altizer Photography
“Keith Haring: The Political Line” exhibit officially opened at the de Young Museum on Saturday, three days after an opening night reception that drew Dede Wilsey, Sloan and Roger Barnett, Ken Fulk, Joy Venturini Bianchi and Barbara Brown, to name a few. This is the first American exhibition to assess the political dimension and scope of Haring’s artistic concerns. Working across a variety of media, including subway drawings, paintings and sculptures, Haring (1958–1990) devoted himself to messages of social justice and change.
This marks the U.S. premiere of the exhibit and the first major Haring show on the west coast in nearly two decades. Many of the works are on loan from The Keith Haring Foundation, New York, with supplemental loans from public and private collections. Several pieces have not been published or on public view since the artist’s death in 1990.
“This was an artist that was so engaged in the community and so involved in all sorts of initiatives,” Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s director Colin B. Bailey told us. “And he died very young. And it’s a really exciting retrospective of his work. He did work at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. There’s a grove named after him in Golden Gate Park. So though he was a New Yorker, he really has a connection to the city.”
“The Political Line” is based on guest curator Dieter Buchhart’s exhibition of the same title, which was presented at the Musée d’art moderne de la Ville de Paris in the summer of 2013. The de Young exhibition is curated by Buchhart in collaboration with Julian Cox, founding curator of photography and chief administrative curator at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
The Political Line features more than 130 works of art including large scale paintings (on tarpaulins and canvases), sculptures and a number of the artist’s subway drawings, among other works. The exhibition will create a narrative that explores the artist’s responses to nuclear disarmament, racial inequality, the excesses of capitalism, environmental degradation and others issues of deep personal concern to the artist.
Bailey is counting on the exhibit appealing to a younger generation who will appreciate Haring’s honest and passionate commitment to addressing contemporary issues through art. “Keith Haring: The Political Line” runs through Feb. 16, 2015.