A trip down memory lane: revisiting Keith Haring (Mons)

Haring_BAMSo there I was, standing in a room full of paintings. It was completely silent, as it tends to be in museums, but at the same time the noise was deafening. The strange effect of being surrounded by Keith Harings. The BAM in Mons is having a big Haring-retrospective. It was weird, looking at this body of work after so many years.

I remember the years when he was hip and all over the place. There was no escaping Keith Haring (’58-’90) in those days. You just had to admire his energy and his street-attitude, bringing a breath of fresh air to that stiff art-world. And of course you liked his style, back then. Everyone did. I even remember looking for that Pop Shop during one of my very first visits to New York. (PS: Mons has the real – but empty -Tokyo Pop Shop set up in a special room, at the Anciens Abattoirs-site.)


But how would it be to see his paintings, many years later?  That’s why I just had to go to Beaux Arts Mons, before the big summer-retrospective closed its doors (September 13). What I feared, did happen. They didn’t do anything to me. The paintings felt out-dated. But maybe that was just because for me they will always be linked to a certain era. I couldn’t focus either. Put a couple of his paintings together and they really are making a lot of noise. There is too much going on in every single one of them. Strangely enough I found myself liking the ones in black-and-white the most. Maybe because they make you focus more on that style that is so undeniable his.

‘My contribution to the world is my ability to draw. I will draw as much as I can for as many people as I can for as as long as I can’, is one of Harings famous quotes. That just about sums it all up. You have to admire him for his style, but there just are too many of those paintings, and so you start to think of him more as a drawing machine then as an artist. But that’s just me. I had a conversation with an important art collector with an impeccable sense of taste, afterwards, and he told me to be in awe of this retrospective.

Haring_Twin_Cities1One thing though. Yes, those painting were already making enough noise, in my opinion. But nevertheless, in the second gallery (the Abattoirs) showing Haring’s work in Mons, there was a small tv-monitor in a corner. You could barely hear the Tom Tom Club’s Genius of love. And then I realised what I had been missing all along: music. This retrospective should have had speakers with a hip eighties-soundtrack in every single room. I bet Haring, for whom music was a vital force, would have loved it.

(photo’s: Beaux-Arts Mons)

‘Untitled’, 1982, private collection; ‘Untitled’, 1982, Collection Ambrous T. Young; ‘Twin cities New York Tokyo’, Galerie Enrico Navarra


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