Friday, March 31, 2017

Keith Haring | Inflatable Baby

Keith Haring
Inflatable Baby 
New York City, USA: The Pop Shop, 1985
83 x 52 x 15 cm. (inflated) 15 x 17 x 5.5 cm. (box)
Edition size unknown

Haring's crawling figure - dubbed "the radiant baby" by Rene Ricard - appeared in the artist's work as early as 1980, and is often considered one of Haring's most important visual motifs. By 1981 the image had become the signature tag for his subway graffiti, though he demurred in '83 when the New York Post asked if the image was a self-portrait. "Not necessarily," he replied, "it's more of an archetypal child. Any human".

Because of Haring's involvement with the Jesus Movement in the decade prior, some critics have interpreted the image as representing Christ. The Jesus Movement began on the West Coast of the United States in the late 1960s and spread throughout North America, Europe, and Central America, before subsiding in the '80s. Members of the grassroots evangelical hippy scene were called Jesus people, or Jesus freaks. Haring encountered the movement in his early teens.

"I was considered a freak, a Jesus Freak," he told biographer John Gruen. "I tried to convince others to be born again and it just annoyed people". After the discovery of drugs, and later the New York club scene, Haring's interest in the Jesus movement faded, but some of the iconography remained.

Haring considered the image of the infant “the purest and most positive experience of human existence.” The figure appeared in countless drawings, often as a stand-alone, but also in more narrative works: the baby being birthed to a mother while she simultaneously is zapped by a UFO, the baby as part of a nativity scene, the baby engulfed in a mushroom cloud, etc. etc. 

The first multiple to feature the Radiant Child image was a small lapel button that Haring self-published to distribute to people he met while tagging. "Sometimes they express such sincere interest that I would like to give them a souvenir," he said.

In April of 1986 Haring opened The Pop Shop at 292 Lafayette Street in SoHo, as a place to sell these types of 'souvenirs':

"Here's the philosophy behind the Pop Shop: I wanted to continue the same sort of communication as with the subway drawings. I wanted to attract the same wide range of people and I wanted it to be a place where, yes, not only collectors could come, but also kids from the Bronx … this was still an art statement."

The Inflatable Baby was sold at the Pop Shop as an affordable, inflatable sculpture. Housed in a small serigraphed cardboard box (white, later red), the vinyl multiple inflated to a length of 83 cm. Intended as an open edition, it is unclear how many were produced and the work is no longer in production.

A copy sold at Christies a year and a half ago for $775 US. 

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