I accept my fate, I accept my life. I accept my shortcomings, I accept the struggle. I accept my inability to understand. I accept what I will never become and what I will never have. I accept death and I accept life. I have no profound realizations — it is blind acceptance and some kind of faith.
-Keith Haring, Journals, February 15, 1989
Simple, joyful and instantly recognizable, Keith Haring’s work allowed him to focus on serious social issues in a way that gave legitimacy and credibility to street art.
Crack is Wack Restored
In 1986, Keith Haring’s friend and studio assistant, Benny Soto, became addicted to crack. Haring tried to get help for Soto, but little help was available. The crack epidemic was at its height, and was especially devastating in New York City.
In typical Haring fashion, he spotted a handball court, in a small park, that was visible from the Harlem River Drive and used it to send a powerful message.
Haring painted the Crack is Wack mural in a single day. It was at the end of the day that a police officer arrested Haring for defacing public property and gave him a court date.
The mural was so visible, the message so strong, that local news outlets used the image in their news stories about the crack epidemic.
It wasn’t until the New York Post asked to photograph Haring in front of the mural that the story of his arrest was made public.
The story led to a public outcry. Unfortunately, someone from the Parks Department had painted over the mural with gray paint.
Public support for Haring was so strong, that the Parks Commissioner wrote a letter of apology to Haring and asked him to repaint the mural, which has become one of the most recognizable murals in the city.
The mural has weathered over the years, and is currently being restored.
Benny Soto overcame his addiction and works as an event promoter in New York.
The Grace House Mural at Auction
Benny Soto was one of the young people who invited Keith Haring to Grace House, a youth center located in a building owned by the Ascension Parish Church in New York’s Upper West Side.
The building, next to the church, was once a convent, then youth center and finally, a residence.
In 1984, Haring was invited by Grace House’s director, Gary Mallon, to paint a mural in the building. One night, Haring showed up with a can of black paint and a house painter’s brush and, in a single night, painted an 85-foot mural up the stairway of the building.
The church has decided to sell the building to pay for needed repairs for the main church. Thinking that the mural might be destroyed by new owners, the church spent $900,000 to have the mural removed. It was taken down in fifteen separate pieces, which are on display at Bonham’s Madison Avenue Gallery and will be auctioned this month. Pre-auction estimates are $3 million to $5 million.
Keith Haring’s Works at VFA
Keith Haring often included religious symbols in his works, especially during the last years of his life. The Chocolate Buddha Series, created just one year before his death in 1990, are infused with his typical brand of joy and humor.
Please contact us if you would like more information about the Chocolate Buddha Series, or about any of the fine art prints available at VFA.
Matthew Israel. Keith Haring’s ‘Crack is Wack’: NYC’s Most Famous Mural? Huffington Post. December 6, 2017.
Elena Martinique. How Louise Hunnicutt Brought Keith Haring’s Crack is Wack Mural Back to its Original Glory. Widewalls. October 11, 2019.
Jorge Fitz-Gibbon. Keith Haring mural cut from UWS wall could go for $5M at auction. New York Post. October 23, 2019.
Gabrielle Leung. Keith Haring’s 85-Foot Mural Cut Out of New York City Wall and Brought to Auction. Hypebeast. October 18,2019.