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FLASHBACK: Famed Pop Artist Keith Haring Dies From AIDS At 31 (February 16, 1990)

February 16, 1990: Today in LGBTQ+ history…

Keith Haring was born in 1958 in Reading, Pennsylvania. In 1978, he headed to the Big Apple on a scholarship from the School of Visual Arts. He never graduated, though: he was expelled after using the school interior as a graffiti art project with his friend, fellow artist Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960–1988).

In 1980, Haring began to use the empty, black paper-covered advertising panels throughout the New York subway system as canvases for his work. Think radiant babies, flying saucers and deified dogs! With white chalk, he drew large-scale murals in the graphic style for which he would become famous.

He was also famous for his influential friends, which included Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono, Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran, and the Material Girl herself – Madonna.

Haring was openly gay and an advocate for safe sex, using his art as a social commentary on homosexuality and the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and ’90s. He contracted the virus in the late ’80s. Following complications from the AIDS virus, Haring died on February 16, 1990, at the young age of 31. His ashes were scattered in the countryside near Bethel, Pennsylvania.

Six months earlier he had been quoted as saying, “The hardest thing is just knowing that there’s so much more stuff to do.”

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