Keith and LA II Haring

"I remember arriving in New York at the beginning of the seventies and, as I got to know the city better, being struck by a twofold image: on the one hand, the growth of new and glittering skyscrapers, and on the other, the apparently unstoppable invasion of its subway stations and cars and its streets by graffiti executed with multicolored spray paint.

I felt that a revolution was underway – a revolution which rejected the concept of total minimalism and functionality with its vision of modernity unrelated to humanity. The graffiti represented the need for a sign of humanity in a place where technology seemed to be getting the upper hand.

I remember Oliviero Toscani and I had decided to use the subway stations of New York for a series of photographs with Donna Jordan as the model, as for us the graffiti represented modernity better than the glass and steel facades of skyscrapers, however beautiful. I believe that the need for the post-modern had its origins in the same sensation that I had at the time, and that many others were to have.

Years later, recalling those emotions and at the suggestion of Tito Pastore (Fiorucci’s long-standing Art Director), we got in touch with Keith Haring, who had become famous after launching his career with graffiti in the subway stations of Manhattan, and who had become a friend of Andy Warhol, since he had been able to express the whole philosophy of that time and the spiritual needs of that moment with the skill of a great artist.

I will not go here into what has already been said in many books about Keith Haring. We were convinced that Keith was the right person to bring everything that he had achieved in New York to Milan in the shape of a great performance.

In 1984, we stripped bare our store, measuring 1,500 square meters, and asked Keith Haring to treat it as a space of his own, in which he would be able to create a great work of art. After talking it over with Andy Warhol, Keith had agreed to the initiative, partly because Andy told him that he had a great liking and esteem for Elio Fiorucci and for everything he had done and thought. Haring decided it would be very interesting to embark on this collaboration, as he, too, felt himself as being on the same spiritual wavelength. Keith also decided he wished to collaborate on the actual mural painting with his friend and protege Angel Ortiz (LA II), a wonderfully gifted sixteen-year-old graffiti writer.

In those years, this type of art was not a question of money, but of a common vision of the world.

The performance was broadcast on television and attended by a group of artists who arrived at the very beginning. It lasted two days and two nights, during which time the store remained open to all the inhabitants of Milan, who followed the performance with great curiosity.

The event has embedded itself in the memory of the Milanese as one of the most extraordinary, surprising, and modern of those years."

Elio Fiorucci

This essay is published in The Keith Haring Show (Milan, Italy: Skira), 2005. P. 81 – 85.

A video showing this work in its original installation in Milan can be seen here

Keith Haring (1958-1990) and LA II (b.1967)
Spray paint on wood
40 3/4 x 148 1/4 in : 103.5 x 376.6 cm
Tagged by LA II in several places
Elio Fiorucci, Milan; Private collection, New York City
This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from the Estate of Keith Haring, dated November 10, 1992
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