May 14, 2002 - Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen - Keith Haring at The Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum
May 14, 2002

Keith Haring at The Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum

Keith Haring
Heaven and Hell

10 May - 21 July 2002

The Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum
Museumpark 18-20, Rotterdam
The Netherlands

Image: Keith Haring, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, 1984, 793 x 1118 cm, Acrylic, Estate of Keith Haring, NY.

The Ten Commandments‘ painted by Keith Haring will be exhibited for the first time in the Netherlands as part of the ‘Heaven and Hell’ exhibition in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam. The manner in which these works, each measuring 7.5 metres in height, will be exhibited is quite out of the ordinary.

The Ten Commandments

The ten epic paintings entitled ‘The Ten Commandments’ are a key element of the exhibition in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. The rather simple structure of these gigantic canvases is quite remarkable: no scores of shapes milling about, but distinctly painted and clearly recognizable monumental figures.

Haring’s Ten Commandments are anti-religious, diabolical and in cynical criticism of traditional altar pieces. The first commandment, in which a repulsive head in profile spews forth scores of snakes, is inspired by works by Hieronymus Bosch in which the mouths of hell and large devils figure. The commandment ‘Thou shall not lie’ ties in with it. The painting portraying a quivering crowd standing in front of a television broadcasting a dollar sign is a reference to the Golden Calf. Haring refers here to the commandment ‘Thou shall not worship false idols’.

Power and impotence, human relations and communication are central themes in Haring’s work. The suppressors are systematically painted in red, the suppressed in blue. Haring painted from the perspective of an American society with strong emphasis on mass consumption and a free market economy.

A different Haring

“Heaven and Hell’ shows a more socially aware side to Keith Haring. Away from the generally known “Fun” pieces, the exhibition in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen shows work that goes much deeper, work in which the artist does not shun telling “momentous stories”. ‘Heaven and Hell’ shows that besides his well-known radiant babies and dogs (Haring’s “tags”), he created plenty of ingenious works demonstrating his profound social interest. Their monumental formats strengthen this effect. Haring’s personal vocabulary has become universal, while reflecting the spirit of the times of the recent past. The ‘Heaven and Hell’ exhibition does away with the simplistic perception of his work and takes the spectator back to the uniqueness and also the quality of his art.

The exhibition has been compiled by zkm | Museum für Neue Kunst and the Estate of Keith Haring Inc.

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