Keith Haring: 31 Subway Drawings

A fascinating look at Keith Haring’s New York City subway artwork from the 1980s

Celebrated artist Keith Haring (1958–1990) has been embraced by popular culture for his signature bold graphic line drawings of figures and forms. Like other graffiti artists in the 1980s, Haring found an empty canvas in the advertising panels scattered throughout New York City’s subway system. It was on these platforms and train cars that he chose to communicate his socially conscious, often humorous messages.

Over a five-year period, in an epic conquest of civic space, Haring produced a massive body of subway artwork that remains daunting in its scale and its impact on the public consciousness. Dedicated to the individuals who might encounter them and to the moments in which their existence was tethered, Haring’s drawings now exist solely in the form of documentary photographs and legend. Because they were not meant to be permanent—only briefly inhabiting blacked-out advertising boards before being covered up by commerce or torn down by authorities and admirers alike—what little remains of this project are oddly fugitive. Keith Haring: 31 Subway Drawings reproduces archival materials relating to this magnificent project alongside essays by leading Haring experts.

Jeffrey Deitch has been involved with modern and contemporary art for nearly fifty years as an artist, writer, curator, dealer, and advisor. His books include Art in the Streets and Keith HaringHenry Geldzahler (1935–1994) was the head of American and Contemporary Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and was a major figure in the New York art scene during the second half of the twentieth century. His books include Art in Transit and Andy WarholCarlo McCormick is a writer, critic, and curator. His books include City as Canvas and TrespassLarry Warsh has been active in the art world for more than thirty years as a publisher and artist-collaborator. He is the editor of the continuing ISMs series, which includes titles by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Futura, Virgil Abloh, Daniel Arsham, and Ai Weiwei (all Princeton).