By Doug Gray, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The late, great Keith Haring, master of pop art and friend to Andy Warhol, has an exhibition running at the Caixa Cultural in downtown Rio throughout October and most of November. Simply entitled ‘Selected Works’, 94 pieces are on display at the gallery following a successful stint in São Paulo’s Galeria Caixa Cultural Paulista that ran from July to September with nearly 40,000 visitors across the five weeks.
One of the most popular artists to emerge from a vibrant early 1980s scene that included Jean-Michel Basquiat and Futura 2000, Haring helped take street art to the galleries of New York. Starting out with simple chalk drawings on the subway, that bold style was carried on throughout his career until it sadly ended early due to illness in 1990.
No stranger to Brazil when alive, one of Haring’s good friends Kenny Scharf married a Brazilian and drew him towards South America, and specifically Bahia. Whilst in the country he took part in the celebrated São Paulo biennial, and visited Rio several times, where the flamboyant, colorful 1980s were in full swing – the perfect match and indeed inspiration for Haring’s work.
A piece in Lapa that he painted back in 1984 still exists on the neighborhood’s walls today, and São Paulo’s city center was also blessed with his touch, though the mural he created there has long since been covered over.
The current exhibition has been curated by Sharon Battat of Litmedia Productions, who revealed; “We have selected works by Keith Haring that have never been seen here before and that have a direct link to Brazil, as well as a selection of personal items including his passport, skates that he developed, and personal photos and videos from his time in Brazil.”
The famous “Pop Shop” series is among the works on display, as well as “Apocalypse” from 1988 which uses methods untypical of the artist, and a documentary by Elisabeth Aubert.
The exhibition also includes a kids’ workshop, where children can receive help from local artists to produce paintings and designs inspired by the simplicity of Haring’s own images. In such ways the Haring Foundation continues the tradition of his work since his tragic death from an HIV-related illness in 1990, one year after he was diagnosed, free condoms and a booklet of twelve stories by people with the disease will also be distributed.
Keith Haring – ‘Selected Works’ will run until November 28th and entry is free.
Caixa Cultural Rio de Janeiro, Centro (21) 2544 4080.
NB. At the time of writing a bank-workers strike meant that the exhibition was closed so do ring ahead to confirm availability.