Keith Haring painting the National Gallery of Victoria mural in Australia, February 1984.
In 1984 during a three week visit to Australia, New York artist Keith Haring undertook a number of public art events. The artist’s willingness to create a deliberately ephemeral work at the NGV, on glass, accorded with “Haring’s desire to devaluate a presumed superiority of individualistic drawing on paper or canvas over other kinds of cultural artifacts, considering all surface as having equal worth.”
Haring first set up the small ghetto-blaster he carried everywhere, which was decorated by artist Kenny Scharf. John Buckley recalled him at work:
“With his beaut little Kenny Scharf radio that he brought over with him from New York, that was blasting away the whole time. He loved the scissor-lift. He was like a kid with a new toy, because he had never been on a scissor-lift before, and he just had the best fun with that. [Before too long] he was a pro with it; he knew how to manoeuvre it in the finest possible way.”
Haring had been brought to look at the window only a day or two before he began the mural. Without any template or grid-lines he painted proportionally without any hesitation or mistakes.
Haring painting constantly at eye level, not needing to move the cherry picker back to judge how the whole might be coming together. As Haring himself observed at this time:
“One of the things I have been most interested in is the role of chance in situations – letting things happen by themselves. My drawings are never pre-planned. I never sketch a plan for a drawing, even for huge wall murals.”
Haring was also happy to be interrupted at any point, frequently stopping his painting to talk to visiting schoolchildren, sign autographs and quickly sketch souvenir drawings for curious new fans of his work – returning to the mural after each of these intermissions without missing a beat.