The New-York Historical Society is dedicated to teaching its visitors about the city’s and country’s past, which includes the HIV/AIDS pandemic that reached its peak in the 1990s, and unfortunately continues today. Today is World AIDS Day, a worldwide day of remembrance for those who have died, support for those who are suffering, and an opportunity to teach others how to prevent the disease from claiming even more lives.
Artist Keith Haring rose to fame in a world scarred by AIDS, crime and the crack epidemic, and used his art to speak on the issues that were touching his life. When he was diagnosed with AIDS, his commitment to using his art for public good became even more important. In 1989 he founded the Keith Haring Foundation, established to assist AIDS-related and children’s charities as well as maintain resources and archives of his work. The Keith Haring Foundation gifted New-York Historical a piece of Haring’s Pop Shop’s painted ceiling, and items from the Pop Shop itself are on display in our Luce Center. Opened in 1986, the Pop Shop intended to allow people greater access to his work, which was now readily available on products at a low cost. The Haring Foundation continued to run the Pop Shop until 2005.
Haring’s work is now synonymous with the city. His murals and characters can be seen everywhere from the FDR drive to Sesame Street, and most can recognize his distinctive style, even if they don’t know his name. And at his death in 1990, it felt as if his best was yet to come. No one knows what the millions of people whose lives were cut short by AIDS would have done with their lives, but the point is their lives were cut short. Perhaps with World AIDS Day’s commitment to awareness, we can spare the next generation the same fate.