LOS ANGELES, California — Yesterday, the Petersen Automotive Museum took the wraps of a new exhibit that further blurs the lines between conventional art and the automobile. “The Unconventional Canvases of Keith Haring” is a five-piece display with each vehicle bearing the brazen brush strokes of the late artist.
Haring made a name for himself in the 1980s in New York City, first with graffiti art in subways and other public venues, then later in museums, advertising and his own books, shirts, toys, and other products. Haring is perhaps best recognized by his broad stick figure-like characters — dancing people, barking dogs, and crawling babies — that often showed up in his work.
Petersen curator Leslie Kendall says that the idea for the exhibit started with the offer of a single Haring vehicle. After researching the artist and other cars he had painted, four more vehicles were located and borrowed for the exhibit over a three-month time span. Kendall expects the exhibit to remain on view through roughly the first quarter of 2017.
“Haring’s art elevates the car from a way of transportation into the expression of an individual,” says Kendall. We couldn’t agree more.
Here’s a break-down of the exhibit’s main subjects.
1990 BMW Z1
Painted for the Galerie Hans Mayer in 1990, this BMW Z1 was originally intended to join the ranks of other BMW art cars, but the plan was never made official. Ironically, just prior to the Keith Haring exhibit, this very space in the Petersen was used to display a selection of BMW art cars. This car, along with the Ferrari-esque child’s car, are on loan from a collection in France.
1963 Buick Special
Painted in 1986, this Buick features some of Haring’s more recognizable themes, including dancing figures inspired by Haring’s time spent in New York City’s burgeoning disco and rap venues. Haring’s oversized signature on the rear fender is also typical of his art.
1987 Honda CBR 1000F Hurricane
Part of a project involving motorcycles painted by various street artists, Haring put his signature touches on this CBR1000F in 1987, when it was then one of the fastest bikes on the road. Interesting touches include black painted lines cleverly integrated with vents on the bike’s fairings.
1971 Land Rover Series III 109 Station Wagon
This Landie was painted by Haring for a photographer in 1983 at the famous Montreux Jazz Festival, held annually in Switzerland. Haring was part of an “artist-in-residence” program at the festival, where he also created posters and painted large pieces live on stage while music was being performed. More dancing figures can be seen on this vehicle, in keeping with the Montreux spirit.
1962 SCAF/Mortarini Ferrari 330 P2 Child’s Car
When Haring participated in a 24-hour drawing competition held alongside the 1984 24 Hours of Le Mans, this Ferrari-inspired child’s car was one of the results. The underlying car is powered by a 200-cc engine and was part of the Little Big Mans children’s race still held every year at the event.
The exhibit opens to the public on Satuday, December 17. For more details, visit Petersen.org.