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Keith Haring visited Barcelona in 1989 and painted several murals. Photo: Framed Art/Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy
Keith Haring visited Barcelona in 1989 and painted several murals. Photo: Framed Art/Alamy Stock Photo/Alamy

Keith Haring's "almost secret" mural saved in Barcelona

The legacy of urban artist Keith Haring will be preserved in a building in Barcelona that was planned to be demolished, but its city council has decided to…

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The city council of Barcelona will protect the legacy of urban artist Keith Haring, the creator of the emblematic mural against AIDS in 1989 in the Raval neighborhood. After authenticating the work painted on the wall of a bar in the city, the city council informed the Generalitat (regional government), who opened a file for its protection, in addition to informing the Ministry of Culture.

Keith Haring had AIDS and knew that his time was running out, so he decided to paint murals on his travels.

He left one of them on the wall of a club in Barcelona in 1989, on a building that was to be demolished. It was alerted that Haring's work could be lost because the new owners wanted to build in this space. However, the interest of the administrations was activated after the work was appraised at 120,000 euros ($146,244 at the current exchange rate).

Haring's work is on the wall of the DJ booth of the Ars Studio, an iconic venue in Barcelona where César de Melero, the "godfather of house" of the Spanish scene, used to play. 

"He came one night, saw the space and asked me to remove the records and the rest of the stuff so he could paint, while his colleague Gil Vázquez, who had come with him from New York and who is now the head of the Haring Foundation, was playing," recalls De Melero, happy that the mural is going to be saved, but at the same time angry about the treatment received for this work that "Haring gave to Barcelona," recalls the DJ in an interview. 

"Acid", in reference to acid house, became one of the typical figures of Haring's visual landscape: a "muppet" with a flower as a head painted in red. The figure seems to twist with the rhythmic pattern of house music. The mural has been intact since 1989, having been preserved even without much experience in graffiti painting.

The new owners of the building were made aware of the mural's importance by communication from the Generalitat, who asked them to protect it. "The pandemic has changed things a lot and we will have to redefine the whole project," says the project manager for the future of the building, stating that Haring's painting will be safe.

All that remains is to establish with the Generalitat the conservation mechanisms, if possible to allow the public to continue to enjoy the work.

According to the director of Macba, Ferran Barenblit, the two Haring murals in Barcelona "are sister pieces, and it is very significant that he made these two pieces and that each from its place greets different audiences. The administrations have protected the piece, which is great news. They have acted as expected in a situation like this and now we can continue to enjoy such a beautiful piece for a long time."

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