Keith Haring’s legacy is not found at the museum

A mural by the artist Keith Haring on a wall at the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center in New York, June 29, 2010. Three decades after his death, his work is still sold on products and in stores, but his concept of public art is most powerfully preserved on the street, writes the New York Times critic Max Lakin. [Sara Krulwich/The New York Times]

NEW YORK - Toward the end of "Radiant: The Life and Line of Keith Haring," Brad Gooch's exhaustive new biography, he quotes from a journal entry Haring made after visiting the Museum of Modern Art in 1988 expressing his "sense of injustice" that contemporaries of his "were represented upstairs in the galleries, while he was confined to the lobby gift shop: 'They have not even shown one of my pieces yet. In their eyes I don't exist.'"

Haring's frustration surely feels surprising for anyone who is familiar with his work, which is mostly everyone. You needn't be able to name a Keith Haring picture to recognize it; its vibrating line and electric palette announce itself as efficiently as a neon sign. That was true in 1988, by which time Haring had completed more than 50 murals around the world, largely for hospitals and children's charities, and was designing Swatch watches and...

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