Keith Haring, Untitled, 1982

The AGO presents "Keith Haring: Art is for Everybody."

Discovering the pressing activism of the renowned pop culture icon, Keith Haring: Art Is for Everybody debuts at the AGO on November 8th.

Curated by Aline Chahine | 
August 25, 2023
| Est. Reading: 4 minutes

Making its only Canadian stop at the AGO, exhibition reveals Keith Haring's tireless commitment to social justice for environmentalism, AIDS awareness and anti-racism.

A pop culture icon, synonymous with New York in the 1980s, Keith Haring's bold images of barking dogs, dancing figures and radiant babies, have become part of our visual vocabulary. Opening Nov. 8, 2023, at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), the revealing new retrospective Keith Haring: Art Is for Everybody goes far beyond the familiar, to explore the artist's foundational commitment to social justice. Organized by The Broad, Los Angeles, and curated by Sarah Loyer, Curator and Exhibitions Manager, Art Is for Everybody is presented at the AGO by Georgiana Uhlyarik, Fredrik S. Eaton, Curator of Canadian Art.  
The first exhibition of Haring's work to be shown in Canada in more than 25 years, and reverberating with energy and love, Art Is for Everybody features more than 200 artworks and ephemera, including large-scale paintings on tarpaulin and canvas, sculptures, works on paper, videos, archival materials and representations of his famed subway drawings. Surveying Haring's brief but intense decade-long career, the exhibition reveals an artist who used his art and celebrity to protest apartheid in South Africa, raise awareness of the crack cocaine epidemic and the AIDS pandemic and to denounce racism, capitalism, nuclear war, environmental degradation and the harmful impact of technology and mass media.

Keith Haring, Untitled, 1982
Keith Haring, Untitled, 1982. Enamel and Dayglo on metal, 182.9 × 228.6 × 3.8 cm. Private collection © Keith Haring Foundation

"With the words Art Is for Everbody, Haring summarized his approach to art and life. He chose imagery that was as direct as possible and he met people where they were – on the street, in the subway, and in dance clubs. He shared his work on posters, T-shirts and buttons. Be it a line drawing of two figures entwined in a loving embrace, a hungry capitalist pig, or bleak warnings of nuclear destruction – the experience of seeing his large-scale work in person, is both a joyful jolt and a call to action," says Georgiana Uhlyarik, AGO's Fredrik S. Eaton Curator of Canadian Art. "We think we know who Keith Haring was – however, through this exhibition audiences will see his depth and ongoing impact, and realize his causes are still our causes, from the power of love and music to the necessity of speaking against injustice."

On view on level 4 of the AGO, Art Is for Everyone brings together significant loans of art and ephemera from the Keith Haring Foundation, New York and The Broad, Los Angeles, with rarely seen works from numerous public and private collections. Ranging from his early days in New York City and the quick and impactful subway drawings Haring called "a public gift to the world", to his breakout show at Tony Shafrazi Gallery, in Soho in 1982 to his (intentionally) Unfinished Painting (1989), Art Is for Everybody is organized in a loose chronology, and explores pertinent themes. The expansive exhibition features immersive elements, including a gallery lit by Day Glo paint, set to a soundtrack of songs from Haring's personal mixtapes, featuring Eric B. & Rakim, the Beastie Boys, Aretha Franklin and Grace Jones.

Featured artworks include:

  • Photographs of Haring working in the New York City subway by the artist Tseng Kwong Chi
  • Video works including 1979's Painting Myself in a Corner and A Circle Play, footage of Bill T. Jones' collaboration with Haring and his 1982 Times Square animation
  • A selection of Haring's early tabloid cut-out works on paper critical of Ronald Reagan and early journals
  • Snake Totem (1984), a metal sculpture created by Haring and jewelry designer David Spada for Grace Jones's Interview magazine photoshoot with Robert Mapplethorpe
  • Two monumental carved wood sculptures that during the artist's lifetime were featured at parties at the Paradise Garage nightclub
  • An Untitled painting, exclusively shown only at the AGO, used for the cover of David Bowie's 1983 single Without You
  • A pink leather suit painted by Haring in collaboration with LA II and worn by Madonna
  • Haring's 11 metre long tarpaulin mural, Untitled (1987), courtesy the Keith Haring Foundation, New York, affectionately known as "Devil Nose"
  • The Red Room (1988), an epic send up of Matisse's 1908 painting of the same name, featuring references to Coco Chanel
  • A selection of posters Haring made in support of the anti-apartheid movement and about the AIDS crisis, including a poster for ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power

Keith Haring: Art is for Everybody, a 256 page, fully illustrated hardcover catalogue, co-published by The Broad and Delmonico Books, accompanies the exhibition. Featuring essays by The Broad's Sarah Loyer, Kimberly Drew and Tom Finkelpearl; a roundtable conversation with Patti Astor, Kenny Scharf, and Kermit Oswald; and reflections by George Condo, Julia Gruen, Bill T Jones, Ann Magnuson, Tony Shafrazi and Gil Vazquez.  The catalogue will be available in shopAGO for $84.00 CAD ahead of the exhibition opening.  
Inspired by Haring's The Pop Shop, first opened in 1986 in the SoHo neighbourhood of New York, the exhibition includes a display of archival ephemera from that store. In addition, shopAGO's satellite retail shop features a selection of exhibition-inspired merchandise for sale including prints, textiles, gifts and homewaresItems will be available on the shopAGO website beginning November 7, 2023.
Admission to Keith Haring: Art Is for Everybody is a benefit for the AGO Community. To enter, show your AGO Membership or Annual Pass. AGO Members see it first, beginning November 8, 2023. Annual Pass holders see it beginning November 11, 2023. Annual Passes are only $35 ($5 more than General Admission) and include free access to the AGO Collection and all special exhibitions for twelve months. Annual Passes are free for visitors aged 14 to 25 and children 18 and under can visit for free when accompanying an AGO Member or Annual Pass holder. Admission is always free for Indigenous Peoples. The exhibition runs until March 17, 2024. For more details on how to become a Member or Annual Passholder, visit

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