The Year of Youth

The year 1985 was declared the International Youth Year by the United Nations with three central themes of participation, development, and peace. It was held in order to bring attention to issues concerning and affecting youth around the world. Activities coordinated by the Youth Secretariat of the Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs took place across the globe and included the International Youth Conference and World Youth Festival in Jamaica, the Friendly Gathering of Youth in Beijing, the 12th World Festival of Youths and Students in Moscow, and the International Youth Year Conference on Law in Montreal. Keith Haring's colorful, joyous, widely appealing imagery was a perfect fit for this unique, global celebration.

The IYY was proclaimed in America by President Ronald Reagan, who praised its youth and their importance for a brighter future: 

“In 1985 the United States joins the celebration of United Nations' International Youth Year. If we are to honor the potential of America's youth, we must remember that the most powerful force for progress comes not from governments or public programs, but from the vital traditions of a free people. Parents, youth organizations, and teachers deserve our support, encouragement, and thanks for the indispensable role they play in fostering and strengthening these traditions.”

I am intrigued with the shapes people choose as their symbols to create a language. There is within all forms a basic structure, an indication of the entire object with a minimum of lines that become a symbol. That is common to all languages, all people, all times.

Keith Haring

Keith Haring 1958–1990

Keith Haring was born in 1958 in Reading, Pennsylvania. From a young age he enjoyed drawing, especially Disney characters and other cartoons. He initially wanted to become a commercial artist but after a year at the Ivy School of Professional Art in Pittsburgh, Haring dropped, moved to New York City and enrolled in the School of Visual Arts (SVA). Haring immediately felt connected to the thriving alternative arts scene happening downtown in the late 1970s and became friends with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Kenny Scharf.

Inspired by the ideals of “art as life” and moving the art experience out of galleries and into the streets, Haring’s first major works were his subway drawings. Haring produced over one hundred of these public works between 1980 and 1985, integrating his now-iconic exuberant, cartoonish outlined figures into everyday public space in a way that directly engaged its viewers. Haring recalled that the most important aspects of these works was the immediate engagement people had with them, asking him “what does it mean?” and giving him feedback that he’d then incorporate into future drawings. In this way, these works became reflections of the people who viewed them, responsive to and in dialogue with their environment. These works quickly garnered the attention of tastemakers in New York and his first solo exhibition was held at Westbeth Painters Space in 1981 and a celebrated show debuted at the high-profile Tony Shafrazi Gallery in New York the following year.

Auction Results Keith Haring