A Keith Haring Tour of New York City


February 16th marks the 23rd anniversary of New York icon Keith Haring’s death. The art world will continue to clamor to get a hold of the pieces of the artist’s legacy, but he left New York many gifts to satiate his absence. Haring lived here from 1978 until his death in 1990. Although most of his street art is long gone, a few permanent pieces and remnants of the artist’s haunts can give us a glimpse into Haring’s life in the legendary New York downtown scene.

Crack Is Wack Mural, FDR and 128th Street

Haring’s orange-and-black Crack Is Wack is one of the artist’s best surviving illegal murals. Restored by the Parks Department in 2007 (which presumably no longer saw it as a graffiti eyesore), the piece appeared in 1986 as a reaction to the rising crack cocaine epidemic in the city.

Woodhull Hospital Mural, 760 Broadway, Brooklyn

Health insurance has been a problem for artists since the dawn of, well, health insurance. Back in the 1980s, hospitals actually had funds reserved for art, and often gave artists healthcare in exchange for treatment. At Woodhull, Haring painted one bright mural that wraps around 700 feet of the hallways, and another black-and-white one in the maternity ward, making for a pleasant surprise after the shock of the hospital’s ER.

Carmine Street Swimming Pool Mural, 1 Clarkson Street

Dolphins, mermen, and iconic dancing Haring dudes frolic around this West Side pool. One of the artist’s gifts to the community, its playfulness is the perfect accompaniment to a summertime swim.

Sexy Bathroom, 208 West 13th Street

A very special, very dirty mural of dicks adorns the men’s bathroom at the LGBT Community Center. The epic black-and-white mural, called Once Upon a Time, was painted to pay tribute to the 20th-anniversary of the Stonewall riots back in 1989. The piece suffered deterioration before Sotheby’s Tobias Meyer and partner Mark Fletcher had it restored last year.

Haring’s art-school mural, 260 West Broadway

In 2007, this gigantic private residence on West Broadway was up for sale, and therefore in the midst of the usual renovations. Knocking down a wall, the developers uncovered a little-known Keith Haring mural, made from shoe polish and alcohol. Back in 1978 the space was used as a gallery for Haring’s alma mater, SVA. He created the piece as part of a student show, and somehow it remained, to be enjoyed by whatever rich family calls this 8,200-square-foot space home.

Houston Mural, Houston and Bowery

You can thank Keith Haring for the murals you see at this corner of Houston St. Neon orange, pink and green, Haring’s illegal 1982 piece attracted the late developer Tony Goldman to the 30-foot wall. Goldman used it as ad space from 1984 until 2008, when he decided to turn it back into a rotating art site, with the first piece a recreation of the original Haring work.

Photo credit: Ivan Corso

Pop Shop, 292 Lafayette Street

Haring’s all-encompassing Pop Shop lived on Lafayette until 2005, when it finally closed its doors. Visiting the store was like walking into a Haring piece — which makes sense, since the floors, walls, ceilings, and pillars were painted by the artist himself, in his own bold strokes. The shop was a model for museum shops to come, selling inexpensive merch featuring Haring works, so everyone could own a little piece of art.

Mural at the Palladium, 140 East 14th Street

Back when Manhattan clubs were cool — seriously cool — partiers at The Palladium (which is now an NYU dorm) could dance it up under a wall-size Haring mural that he made just for the club.

Fashion Moda, Bronx

Gallerist Stefan Eins shook up the Lower East Side scene in 1978 by opening a graffiti-culture gallery in the South Bronx. Getting people up to the Bronx was a big deal in those pre-Internet days. Haring contributed drawings to a 1980 New Museum exhibition of Fashion Moda artists.

Paradise Garage, 84 King Street

Haring’s favorite club, Paradise Garage was a safe haven for the LGBT community of the late 1970s and ’80s. He once said the club was his Pantheon, the place where he meshed music, performance, and art, inspiring himself and other artists. Haring’s pal Madonna wore her best Keith Haring plastic dress suit during her breakout performance of “Dress You Up” at the club in 1984.