Haring began to study commercial art in Pittsburgh at the the Ivy School of Professional Art, but commercial art did not hold his interest. In 1978, he was given his first solo exhibition at the Pittsburgh Arts and Crafts Center. That same year he moved to New York City to study at the School of Visual Arts. In New York, he became attracted to the alternative art world and became friends with fellow like-minded artists Kenny Scharf and Jean-Michel Basquiat. In the early 1980s, Keith Haring began creating his subway drawings on the unused advertising panels found in the stations. He liked the public quality of these spaces. He began to develop a following with subway passengers. Soon he received international recognition and was included in several art exhibitions in United States and Europe. Going back to his commercial roots, he created designs for Swatch watches and an Absolut Vodka advertising campaigns.
He had a brief, but prolific career. Themes seen in Keith Haring’s work cover birth, death, sex, war and AIDS. His style is easily recognizable and appeals to large audience.
Whitney Museum curators held a major retrospective of his work in 1997. Keith Haring’s work is found in important collections around the world. He died of AIDS in 1990.