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American artist Keith Haring (1958 to 1990) drawing on a subway platform in New York City, circa 1982.

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BRATTLEBORO — In the early 1980s, Keith Haring was a little-known artist from Reading, Pennsylvania, not yet the international art superstar and social activist he would soon become. During this time, Haring made thousands of unsanctioned chalk drawings in New York City subway stations. Most of them were promptly thrown away or papered over by subway authorities. Only a limited number survive to this day. Seventeen of these historic drawings will be exhibited publicly for the first time at the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center in the exhibition “Keith Haring: Subway Drawings,” on view Feb. 18 to April 16, 2023. The exhibition’s opening reception, free and open to the public, will take place at the museum on Feb. 18, at 5 p.m.

The drawings in the BMAC exhibition were saved from destruction by a New York City building superintendent and handyman who had met Haring while he was creating one of his drawings and subsequently took it upon himself to save some of Haring's subway drawings before they were torn down or papered over by the MTA.

“This is a real coup for BMAC,” said director Danny Lichtenfeld. “We’re deeply grateful to Alex for allowing us to share these iconic artworks with our community.”

The subway drawings are one of many projects Haring executed in public spaces. In late 1980, Haring noticed blank advertising billboards covered with black matte paper in New York City subway stations. He purchased white chalk and began a daily routine of making spontaneous drawings in these blank spaces. The resulting drawings, which Haring made quickly to avoid getting caught by the MTA police, were crucial to the development of Haring’s recognizable, cartoon-like imagery and unique characters, such as the barking dog and the radiant baby.

Two events organized in conjunction with the exhibition will offer audiences the opportunity to learn more about Haring and his work. On March 16, at 7 p.m., art historian Amy Raffel will discuss Haring’s subway drawings and artistic development in the early 1980s. On March 23, at 7 p.m., Angelina Lippert, Chief Curator at the Poster House in New York, will give a talk at Next Stage Arts Project in Putney, on how posters marry the worlds of art and commerce. For more information on these and other BMAC events, visit brattleboromuseum.org.

Founded in 1972, the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center presents rotating exhibits of contemporary art, complemented by lectures, artist talks, film screenings, and other public programs. The museum is open Wednesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is on a “pay-as-you-wish” basis. The museum, in historic Union Station in downtown Brattleboro at the intersection of Main Street and routes 119 and 142, is wheelchair accessible. For more information, call 802-257-0124 or visit brattleboromuseum.org.


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