NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale will present “Confrontation: Keith Haring and Pierre Alechinsky,” the first exhibition dedicated to exploring the historic and visual intersections between American street artist and art activist Keith Haring (1958-1990), and virtuosic Belgian painter, Pierre Alechinsky (b. 1927), the last surviving member of the European avant-garde art movement, CoBrA. The exhibition will be on view beginning February 27, and will remain displayed through October 2, 2022.
In 1977, while studying at the Ivy School of Professional Art in Pittsburgh, 19–year-old Haring visited the Museum of Art at the Carnegie Institute, where he encountered a retrospective of Pierre Alechinsky. Throughout Haring’s renowned career, he would credit the experience of seeing Alechinsky’s work at the Carnegie as a watershed moment for him as an artist. In interviews, Haring would repeatedly describe the sudden “rush of confidence” he had when he saw Alechinsky’s self-generating shapes and framing devices, which were so similar to his own, but had been realized on a monumental scale.
Alechinsky’s expressive and spontaneous lines thrilled Haring, who returned to the exhibition multiple times, studied the exhibition catalog, read Alechinsky’s writings, and watched films of him painting enormous canvases on the floor. Haring immediately started working bigger, painting horizontally and incorporating spontaneous drips into his compositions. While Haring maintained a controlled line that was less fluid than Alechinsky’s, this encounter assured him that he was “doing something that was worthwhile.”
The inspiration that Haring derived from Alechinsky early in his career remained a constant throughout his life. In the eighties, Haring visited Alechinsky at his studio in Bougival, France; this experience is preserved through artworks they traded and a forthcoming testimonial written by Alechinsky on the occasion of this exhibition.
“Confrontation: Keith Haring and Pierre Alechinsky” will draw major attention in celebrating one of the most beloved figures of twentieth century American art, while simultaneously providing a means of access to one of the legends of the European avant-garde. This exhibition differentiates itself from past iterations of Haring presentations through its emphasis on showing the artist’s place within a broader historical lineage that extends to artists beyond American borders. In connecting Haring to Alechinsky and CoBrA, this presentation emphasizes the under-recognized legacy of this key experimental movement, one that eroded artistic and social barriers by bringing work into the streets and adapting non-traditional creative sources, including children’s art and pre-historic visual culture in order to instigate social change.
NSU Art Museum’s collection of CoBrA art is the largest in an American museum. CoBrA– an acronym for the three capital cities in which its founding members originated: Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam–is the international, interdisciplinary, and collective art movement that spanned from 1948-1951.
“Confrontation: Keith Haring and Pierre Alechinsky” is curated by Bryant-Taylor Curator Ariella Wolens, with the museum’s director and chief curator, Bonnie Clearwater. This exhibition is made possible with major support from Dr. David & Linda Frankel, with additional funding from Christie’s, The John and Ljuba Lefebre Family, Linda Nathan Marks and Berenice Fisher, Stephen and Joan Marks, Jacqueline Niehaus, Lee Sider and Greg Stanton, and those who wish to remain anonymous.
Special thanks to Pierre Alechinsky; Annelise Ream and The Keith Haring Foundation; Kristen Accola; Bonnie Barnett; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Lauren Nijerk Bogen; Jeffrey Deitch; Galerie Lelong; Suzanne Geiss; Alison M. Gingeras; Gladstone Gallery; Tseng Kwong Chi Estate; the Rubell Family Collection; Rita Krauss; Austin Ma; Kermit and Lisa Oswald; Tony Shafrazi; Kenny Scharf; and Larry Warsh.
NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale is located at One East Las Olas Blvd. Face masks are required in all NSU facilities regardless of vaccination status. For more information, visit the website or call (954) 525-5500. Follow the Museum on social media @nsuartmuseum.