One of the many things I will never understand, or simply find extremely odd, is an exhibition, in a private museum, about a street artist. But like many artist, I believe Keith Haring gave in to the commercial aspect of art and sold himself. And no, I don’t think it was “bold, innovative and political stand”, as some might say, from him to print his work on t-shirts, hats… Sunday 18th was the last day of the “The Political Line” exhibit at the Musee d’Art Moderne, in Paris.
Haring (1958-1990) is a true pop icon. He was one of the most renowned artist of his time, even today, everyone recognizes his unique style and his signs. He had shows with Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat (one of my favorites), Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Rauschenberg. He became popular pretty quickly, but what really marked his career was the focus on the political dimension. His subway graphics, paintings, drawings, sculptures spoke of social justice and change. Amongst other things, he lead a fight against racism, abuse of capitalism (ironic isn’t it?) and submission of the individual to the state. Haring never used art as a propaganda tool despite the fact that he was passing on a message to the people. He fought for children’s education, against crack and AIDS; he was also in favor of the abolition of the apartheid in South Africa. Haring was a very spontaneous artist: many curators who worked with him over the years claim that whenever they would hire him for a live show or for a painting, he would never come prepared in the sense that he never had a draft or quick sketch of what he had in mind. He just did what he felt.
The exhibit is organized in a thematic way. There are about 220 works and is one of the biggest exhibit of Keith Haring. I took a couple of shots, mainly details of some work and wrote down the name and material, so you could look it up in case you are interested.
Manhattan Penis drawing for Ken Hicks, 1978
Graphite on paper
8 1/2 x 5 1/2 inches / 21.6 x 14.0 cm
Painting / Acrylic On Vinyl
96 x 96 inches / 244 x 244 cm
Marker on metal
- Painting / Acrylic On Canvas
- 120 x 180 inches / 304.8 x 457.2 cm
- Untitled, 1984
- Dayglo, Encaustic, Ink On Plaster
- 46 1/2 x 31 1/2 inches / 118 x 80 cm
- Painting / Acrylic On Canvas
- 10 foot diameter
The trippy room
- Sculpture / Enamel On Aluminum
- 42 x 27 x 10 1/2 inches / 106.7 x 68.6 x 27 cm
When it comes to Haring, I really admire his engaged work, and his fights against capitalism, racism, homophobia… Vandalizing Mickey Mouse, Coca Cola or the statue of David was a very bold move. He covered every inch of them or simply deformed them. Another theme I simply love, is his stand against the Church and the oppression of the church, especially for someone like him, a gay artist that hung out with people of different “color”.
A couple of hours later, we (my sister, Dounia, and her childhood friend from Paris, Elisa) found our way out and were back on the streets. And we walked, and walked and walked some more. Till we reached Le Marais, one of my favorites neighborhoods in Paris: it’s a very vibrant, young and active side of the city with so much going, all the time and everywhere. We had a light lunch in a very cute restaurant/bar called Pick Clops.
And then we walked, and walked and walked some more. We reached the Canal St Martins and Elisa took us to this restaurant/bar/”Ghetto” museum called Comptoir General. First of all, to find this place, you gotta know someone, because you will never discover it, unless you like to go into small parking lots that look private. You can feel the crazy energy to goes through this place in winter (summer’s dead in Paris) or at night. Because you can’t smoke indoor, they have this beautiful garden in the back where you can sit on the low benches. The place itself is very colorful. Amongst the seating areas, you have exhibition areas where they would show a “Ghetto” classroom or a bedroom. Upstairs, they have a shop where they sell clothes, accessories… The menu is exotic as well, passion fruit juice is maybe the most banal thing on there.
At night, we met up at Parc de la Villette, in the 20e. All summer long, they have an outdoor cinema, that takes place every other day. On Aug 18, they were showing a movie by Stanley Kubrick, called The Killing. The setting was wonderful: huge, literally, huge screen, amazing sound system, beautiful park and happy people! Ten minutes into the movie, it started to rain. We all took out our umbrellas, thinking “Oh well, it was like this all day, very light rain for a couple of minutes”. But no, not this time. This time it goes quite hardcore, and we all left and took a 40 mns metro ride back home.