Keith Haring began his career in 1980, drawing graffiti in the New York subway. In 1982, he started to show his work at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery, after which he began to exhibit worldwide. He had his first solo museum show in the Netherlands at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in 1986, and had this to say about his exhibition: “…because it’s a major museum in Amsterdam, the show had phenomenal attendance. For me, it was an overwhelming experience, showing at the Stedelijk Museum. I felt I had really accomplished something”. Haring’s activist art addresses themes which continue to hold relevance today, such as war, racism, drugs and AIDS – Haring died of complications related to the disease in 1990.
The velum painted by Keith Haring (1958-1990) is on display again at the Stedelijk Museum. The American artist painted the canvas, which filters daylight into the grand hallway, especially for his solo exhibition at the Stedelijk in 1986. For his show, Haring didn’t simply want to present an artwork he’d already made – he insisted on making new work. Laying out the velum on the floor of one of the museum galleries, he painted it in just one day, using spray paint. Haring turned the event into an energy-fueled performance: while photographers and journalists looked on, he painted rapidly and rhythmically, moving over the canvas, hip-hop playing in the background. He filled the canvas with dancing, waving figures, crawling babies and squirming animals. Known as the ‘Keith Haring velum’, the painting was stretched below the monumental glass cupola above the historic staircase.