Will a Keith Haring Mural Fall to Gentrification?

Tenants are fighting their eviction in court.

Keith Haring at work at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 1986. Photo courtesy Rob Bogaerts, via Wikimedia Commons.
Keith Haring at work at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 1986. Photo courtesy Rob Bogaerts, via Wikimedia Commons.

A Keith Haring mural in Upper Manhattan may be at risk.

Artists and students living in low-rent apartments at Grace House, a church-owned building on West 108th Street in Morningside Heights, say that real estate development may have doomed a little-known work by the legendary street artist that shows some of his trademark imagery, including the “radiant baby,” along with dancing human and animal figures.

Tenants tell DNAinfo that the church is evicting them due to “financial difficulties” that have forced the church to “explore its options.” They tell DNAinfo that they’ve seen real estate developers surveying the property, which reportedly includes 14 SRO units and a one-bedroom apartment. One tenant says he pays $900 a month for a studio apartment there.

The Goddard Riverside Law Project is assisting two of the tenants in a lawsuit fighting their eviction, writes DNAinfo.

The mural is not widely known, one expert says.

“It is quite remarkable that this mural has not been generally acknowledged,” Keith Haring Foundation director Julia Gruen told the New York Times in 2007. The Times reports that Haring painted the mural in 1983 or 1984, when a Catholic youth organization was leasing the former convent building. Two of Haring’s friends worked for Grace House at the time.

Gruen praised the mural highly in the Times article, saying, “In terms of the imagery, it’s like a lexicon of his vocabulary.”

Neither the foundation nor Goddard Riverside Law Project nor the church immediately responded to artnet News’s inquiries.

While he is a superstar, Haring’s auction highs are relatively modest, topping out at $5.6 million for a 1989 canvas, at Sotheby’s London this summer, according to the artnet Price Database. The painting, The Last Rainforest, was put up for sale by photographer David LaChapelle.


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