2 November 2019. Walking through Keith Haring’s retrospective at Tate Liverpool is not an easy ride. The apparent simplicity of the portrayed cartoonish outlined figures hides layers and layers of meaning. I feel like I’m walking in a visual maze made even more confusing by his choice of the brightest colour palette possible. Haring’s art is bright, daring, in your face and walking through the gallery accompanied by his visionary nightmare is not a pleasant experience. It is intensely demanding on the eyes and claustrophobic; his visual criticism of the superficial hedonistic eighties is poignant but anything but joyful. In his case, appearances are truly deceptive. His rise was meteoric, his performances in the New York underground system drew crowds and his drawings on the underground posters would disappear the minute he would exit the station and are probably owned by rich oil magnates by now. At the beginning of the exhibition we are treated to black and white video recordings of such performances documented for posterity somehow and we do feel privileged to be able to witness raw creativity at work.  His work grows in stature and scope throughout the decade, his entourage of like-minded misfits, achieved fame and fortunes, but it proved to be a will-o’-the-wisp, drugs and the aids epidemic destroyed hopes and fortunes. Haring himself did not see much of the new decade, he died in February 1990, aged 31, but he had made his mark. He abhorred elitism, he wanted art to be viewed by everybody, he wanted art to open minds. I don’t think he would have had any time for present day’s commoditization of art, he would probably have laughed at the irrelevancy of it all.

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