Subway drawings
Photo: Anne Jannes Photography

Subway drawings

Haring was 22 years old when, in 1980, he drew his first subway drawing with white chalk on one of the matte black paper used to cover old advertisements in a New York underground station. In five years time, he would draw more than 5,000 subway drawings, of which only dozens have survived.

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‘The subway drawings were, as much as they were drawings, performances. It was where I learned how to draw in public. You draw in front of people. For me it was a whole sort of philosophical and sociological experiment. When I drew, I drew in the daytime which meant there were always people watching’ – Keith Haring 

 These guerrilla-style drawings were seen by thousands of people every day and Haring, who wanted to create 'art for everyone', found his audience here. Inspired by the imagery of hieroglyphs and the communicative power of pictograms, Haring experimented with ways to create a universal language steeped in both mythology and social criticism. As is often the case with Haring, making these drawings was also a performative act. Not only the lightning-fast drawing before the eyes of his unsuspecting audience, but also the fact that the drawings were often photographed and recorded by Tseng Kwong Chi in the presence of these passengers contributed to this. 

The exhibition shows eight subway drawings, complemented by Tseng's photographs of Haring drawing in the metro.