In 1980, artist Keith Haring discovered an unconventional canvas for his artwork: the blank advertising spaces on the New York City subway. When advertising subscriptions expired and left empty spaces, Haring saw an opportunity. Soon, he was regularly drawing on these spaces using chalk, creating over 5,000 pieces of unique public art between 1980 and 1985.
Haring’s pop art style combined with graffiti-like elements made him a significant figure in the street culture of New York City during the 80s. His works were frequently inspired by cultural and political events of that time, allowing him to respond quickly to current events through his art.
One significant impact of Haring’s subway drawings is his use of simplistic imagery and semiotics to communicate complex ideas. This limited palette communicates vast amounts of information effectively through few visual cues; this continues to inspire artists who strive for communicative visuals.
Keith Haring has since become one of the most iconic urban artists in history because his work extends beyond museums and galleries—his legacy exists where anyone can see it: on streets, signs, subway cars or billboards across New York City—and serves as musical inspiration for fashion designers like Jeremy Scott who designed Adidas Originals’ Keith-themed apparel collection.