Keith Haring’s Legacy Lives On Through Sister Kay’s Memory (BlackBook Exclusive)

Photo Courtesy of Kay Haring

In the age of self-made celebrities whose fame and fortune can be accredited to their Instagram followings, few artists endure like Keith Haring. A protégé of Andy Warhol, his work was part of a movement he might never have imagined, paving the way and inspiring many more to come. From public murals to t-shirts, his iconic vision lives on today.

27 years after his life was cut short, a crowd of influencers, art enthusiasts, and long-time fans flocked to the Whitney Museum of American Art in Lower Manhattan. It was the launch of Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing, a children’s book about the artist’s life, written by none other than the artist’s sister, Kay Haring. Joined by her daughters and granddaughter, the whole family wore t-shirts of their late brother and uncle’s art, as did the line of his fans that stretched to the door of the museum for the signing.

“I’ve always known for the last 27 years that his legacy lives on,” Kay told us beforehand. “And it’s all sort of bubbling up again, how people didn’t just like his work, they loved him. It’s been a reminder about how much they really loved him as a person.”

It was this fond affection from the public for her brother that pushed her to write the book. With the help of social media, she’s stayed in touch with many of his fans who reached out to tell their own stories of how Keith inspired them.

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Excerpts from Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing

With such a life of work that covered many serious and taboo topics, it’s difficult to find someone in the art world not affected by him. He touched on subjects of war, AIDS, and drugs. Although this is what many remember of him, for Kay, his legacy is rooted in his persistence to chase his dreams.

“I just took a piece of what I wanted to talk about for Keith and emphasized that,” she said. “I really just wanted to start when he was a young boy and how he really just kept drawing and he continued to follow what he wanted to do, and that led him to where he wanted to end up. And it seemed to be a really good way to reach children”

The stories in the book consist of those that have remained in the family, some of which she passed on to her own children. From when he sold his bike to pay for art supplies to when he gave away his first painting instead of selling it in order to share his art, it paints a beautiful picture of the life he lived.

In remembering her brother, Kay recalls him as the typical irritating older brother. But most of her memories are that of him drawing. It was something that kept him going, even until the end.

“It was right when he knew he had AIDS, and it was a terrible time,” she said. “He knew he was gonna die, and he had this amazing view like, ‘I’m gonna work as hard as I can and as long as I can. It’s inevitable, I have to accept this. I just have to do all the good I can do for other people.’”

Written by Kay Haring and illustrated by Robert Neubecker, Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing is now available at Penguin Random House.

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