Keith Haring “The New Yorkais” Speedy Graphito

by Fernanda Hinke on April 30, 2013

Keith Haring retrospective Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris CENTQUATRE (5)

New York, 1978, student Keith Haring arrives in the city considered to be the cradle of the graffiti movement.  His mind is blown away by the tags, the dubs, the subway car ‘masterpieces’ – the frenetic energy of the illegal art scene.

Years later, and Haring, influenced by this ‘subway art’, draws on the same walls that first inspire him, in white chalk on empty black advertising poster panels – marking his birth as a street artist.

Paris, 2013, last Friday, twenty-three years after Haring passes away, opens the largest retrospective of his work ever brought together, “The Political Line”, at Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, in association with Centquatre – a collection of non-‘street art’.

Keith Haring retrospective Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris CENTQUATRE Photo: Fernanda Hinke copyright 2013

Photo: Fernanda Hinke copyright 2013

Keith Haring retrospective Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris CENTQUATRE (24)

Keith Haring retrospective Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris CENTQUATRE (19)

Keith Haring retrospective Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris CENTQUATRE (21)

Keith Haring retrospective Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris CENTQUATRE (22)

Keith Haring retrospective Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris CENTQUATRE (10)

Photo: Fernanda Hinke copyright 2013

The show represents the career of Haring during his short life and makes us aware of his use of art to campaign for social justice. The state, capitalism, religion, mass media, racism, ecocide, children’s health, crack, AIDS – all feature.

The social and political aside, Keith Haring, no doubt one of the most famous artists of his generation, created a visual language comprised of universal symbols – dancing figures, hearts, angels, pyramids, UFOs, basic forms – which is so utterly familiar today.

Even walking the streets of Paris, you are confronted with work you may be forgiven for thinking is by the godfather. Curiously similar in style, this work, however, is actually painted by Speedy Graphito, a “first generation” Parisian street artist.

Speedy’s graphic style of simplified characters and narrative is such that he is even referred to as “The French Haring”. But unlike that other first generationer Jef Aerosol, and his well-worn “The French Banksy” tag, nothing could be further – Speedy and Haring actually painted a wall together in 1985 for a Parisian nightclub, a meeting spot at the time. They met; there was an influence.

Keith Haring retrospective Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris CENTQUATRE (14)

Keith Haring retrospective Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris CENTQUATRE (1)

Photo (top and bottom): Speedy Graphito 

But, not to rest the entire case just on the fact that they most likely shared a drink together, Speedy’s work also shares similar codes to Haring’s – where the Jef Aerosol-Banksy comparison quickly falls apart.

Speedy’s work shows concerns with consumerist propaganda: themes such as power, money, the art market, consumer society, the economic crisis, influences of the internet on our social relationships.

In fact, spurred by highly informed Parisian street art intellectuals, we felt so strongly about Speedy as a veritable “French Haring” – but born of his own dust – we sought him out for a very, very short interview.

Speedy answered us back from LA, as follows:

What about the life and career of Haring?

“His career was meteoric and highly publicised. I share in the idea that the artist must live in his time and seep into everyday life. Keith Haring had worked extensively on derivatives to disseminate his work. The untimely death of Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat made them icons. I would have liked to see the evolution of their work.”

Keith Haring retrospective Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris CENTQUATRE (23)

Keith Haring retrospective Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris CENTQUATRE (4)

Photo: Keith Haring

Keith Haring retrospective Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris CENTQUATRE (3)

Keith Haring retrospective Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris CENTQUATRE (12)

Now, considered as one of the top five most famous artists in the world, street artist, Banksy, uses a Haring-esque dog to satirise British social attitudes towards working class youth culture. Photo: copyright ‘futureperfectart.blogspot.fr’

Keith Haring Necker Children's Hospital Paris - © Pierre Mondain-Monval

Keith Haring Necker Children’s Hospital Paris. Photo: © Pierre Mondain-Monval 

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Keith Haring’s “The Political Line” runs until August 18, 2013, simultaneously at Le Musée d’Art Moderne and Centequatre. 

Musée d’Art Moderne’s website, here.

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Speedy Graphito’s solo show in Los Angeles opens May 11, at the Fabian Castanier Gallery.

About the Author

Fernanda Hinke went from Brazilian fashion marketing entrepreneur in Brazil to Toronto, Canada. And, then Paris. Current focuses are biking, street art and Buddhism. Check her out at mylifeonmybike.com.

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