14 Times Keith Haring Was Cooler Than You’ll Ever Be

This legendary bad boy was never one for social or creative conventions. For his birthday, let’s take a minute to remember all the times he was the coolest.

The openly gay Keith Haring, who died of AIDS at the age of 31 in 1990, is best remembered for his cartoonish and vibrant paintings. But the graphic pop artist and human rights activist also broke fresh ground with the amount of LGBT imagery and symbolism he brought to his art. He would have been 55 this year.

Remember all those times he was cooler than you’ll ever be?

1. When he rocked out this suit without even trying:

2. When he was (literally) too cool for school:

“The people I met who were doing it seemed really unhappy; they said that they were only doing it for a job while they did their own art on the side, but in reality that was never the case–their own art was lost. I quit the school.”

3. All the times he vandalized empty ad spaces in New York City:

“The subway drawings were, as much as they were drawings, performances.”

4. When he stuck it to the man.

5. When he took notebook doodling to a whole new level:

6. When he did whatever he wanted to do, because he could, and that’s what rebels do.

He told Rolling Stone:


When he turned stick figures into works of art.

7. When he understood the true meaning of “Mo’ money, mo’ problems

8. When he partied at work.

For his first one-man show he transformed part of the space into a club-like party. The show was at the Shafrazi in 1982.

9. That time he was diagnosed with AIDS and not one fuck was given.

In an interview Keith discussed how his diagnosis made him appreciate the little things. “Appreciating things in a way that you never appreciated before. Every day when I walk out of the house and feel a warm breeze and look up and see the clouds in the sky, it’s incredible.”


10. When he would paint on literally anything and everything to spread some good.

He often painted in hospitals, orphanages, and day care centers for children.

11. When he casually hung out with Andy Warhol like it was no big deal.

12. When he hung out with other famous people like it was no big deal.

Debbie Mazar, Haring, Sandra Bernhard, Madonna, Kenny Scharf, Bob Weir, and Rob Wasserman salute an audience at the 1989 “Don’t Bungle the Jungle!” rain forest benefit in Brooklyn, NY.

13. That time he literally had no regrets.

Francois Durand / Getty Images

14. And, of course, when he painted huge penises and got away with it.

Some of his work still resides in New York City, such as the bathroom of the Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center. While the room has been through some transformations (it now serves as a meeting room), the mural has remained one of the Center’s artistic treasures

The bathroom, painted by Keith Haring in 1989, at the newly re-opened Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center in New York City. 7 / Getty Images

Happy Birthday to the biggest bad boy of them all, Keith Haring.

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Sarah Karlan is the Deputy LGBT Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Sarah Karlan at
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