KEITH HARING by John Gruen


The Authorized Biography
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 A largely sympathetic portrait of the recently deceased young artist whose works moved from the subway platforms of N.Y.C. to the walls of galleries and museums throughout the world. Using the form of interviews with Haring himself as well as with the hustlers and hangers-on, the con men and collectors, the celebrities and sycophants who formed his world, Gruen (Eric Bruhn, 1979, etc.) paints a vivid picture of pop culture in the 1980's. Haring's recounting of his own adventures forms the backbone of the book. He is remarkably frank about his gay life (he died of AIDS at the age of 31), his impatience for fame, his dissatisfaction with the art establishment. Augmenting these revelations are reminiscences by such fellow artists as Kenny Scharf and Roy Lichtenstein, art dealers Leo Castelli and Tony Shafrazi, such cult figures as Madonna and Yoko Ono, as well as Timothy Leary and William Burroughs. Even Princess Caroline of Monaco has a bit to add. It's a glittering roster, and Gruen organizes their diverse points of view with clarity and care. Few dissenting voices are heard, however, and the tone becomes nearly hagiographic. Had Gruen approached some of Haring's detractors--and there are many--the portrait would have been fuller. An occasional note of self-serving creeps in as well, as when Timothy Leary states, ``Keith and I [have] been swept by the waves of the twentieth century into the twenty-first century.'' Still, Leary does have the grace to admit that Haring ``is not Mother Teresa.'' Some readers may also be puzzled by the seeming disparity between Haring's insistence that his work is ``for the people'' and his unremitting name-dropping of the glitterati. Limited, but nonetheless a valuable overview of an 80's phenomenon and his world. (Thirty-two b&w and 105 color photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Oct. 11th, 1991
ISBN: 0-13-516113-4
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Prentice Hall
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1991