Albertina | Keith Haring. The Alphabet

To mark what would have been his 60th birthday, the Albertina is devoting a comprehensive retrospective to Keith Haring (1958 – 1990), with nearly 100 works from international museums and private collections. 16 March – 24 June 2018 Albertina, Vienna, Austria

Keith Haring, Untitled September 1982, Vinyl paint on vinyl tarp Copyright © Keith Haring Foundation
Keith Haring, Untitled September 1982, Vinyl paint on vinyl tarp Copyright © Keith Haring Foundation


Keith Haring. The Alphabet

Unique symbolic language

Beginning with his early subway drawings, the exhibition sheds new light on a fundamental but often under-appreciated aspect of Haring's œuvre: his unique symbolic language, which functions as a sort of artistic alphabet throughout his works.


Through his characteristic stick-figures—which embody a graphic form with prehistoric roots—Haring made reference to the creative principles of graffiti and street art in order to convey a message of justice and change in a language accessible to every human being.


Keith Haring’s drawings, paintings, and sculptures

Haring was one of his era’s widely celebrated artists. His works were shown at documenta 7 in 1982, in leading international museums and galleries, and at numerous biennial exhibitions all over the world.

Despite his early and lasting success among critics and on the art market, one central aspect—which can be viewed as a primary concern of his art—has to this day hardly been recognized in its true significance: his systematic symbolic language, which runs through all of his work like a golden thread.

Keith Haring’s drawings, paintings, and sculptures embody messages that take a stand against the violence of ruling elites, against the oppression of minorities, against prejudice, and against barbarism. His themes thus repeatedly revolve around justice and change.

Haring’s art consisted in a language that should be easily understood by every human being in its referencing of the creative principles of graffiti and street art, and with his stick-figures (themselves embodying a graphic form with prehistoric roots), he was part of that transformational process from low to high art that had already seen Pop Art cartoons and wall paintings added to museum collections. Haring championed the individual and opposed the oppression of individuals by dictatorship, racism, capitalism, and drug addiction.

He fought to end Apartheid in South Africa, and his dedication to the fight against AIDS is legendary. He was also one of those voices that warned loudest about the perils of nuclear war, environmental destruction, and countless other threats to humanity and our planet.

Keith Haring developed his entire symbolic language based on the realization that images can function like words, and his early subway drawings became a significant foundation of his art.

Haring’s influence on his contemporaries and on subsequent generations of artists has been enormous and lasting. And his political messages and thoughts are not only part of his legacy, but also part of humanity and the history of art as a whole.


16 March – 24 June 2018

Albertinaplatz 1, 1010 Vienna

Exhibits 100 works

Curator: DDr. Dieter Buchhart

Catalogue Keith Haring, The Alphabet

Editor : Dr. Klaus Albrecht Schröder and DDr. Dieter Buchhart, 232 pages, 32,50 Euro (Hardcover)

Opening times Daily 10 am – 6 pm, Wednesday and Friday 10 am – 9 pm

Admission Regular € 12,90, reduced € 8.50/9.90

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