Cover image of the review
Keith Haring mural, 1984, former Collingwood Technical School, Johnston Street. Photo: Chris Cottrell

Keith Haring Mural

19 Jun 2021
1 Jun - 30 Jun 2021

Public artworks don’t typically get written about unless they’re associated with controversy or celebrity. The Keith Haring mural on the wall of the old Collingwood Technical School overlooking Johnston St has plenty of both and, as a result, far more than its fair share of commentary. It was originally painted in 1984 during Haring’s month-long trip to Australia, at the height of his fame and only six years before his tragic death in the HIV/AIDS epidemic. By 2010, the deterioration of the mural led to a concerted effort to restore it. Bec Peniston-Bird’s 2015 documentary about the conservation project, Keith Haring Uncovered, narrates the ensuing drama as warring factions of conservators, curators and heritage experts debated how best to save the mural. There’s also a wonderful sub-plot involving the theft of part of the mural, recounted first-hand by the thief himself, who appears on screen as an anonymous darkened silhouette. Haring had signed his mural on a small wooden access door, attached by hinges to the bottom of the wall. The next part of the story is entirely predictable. At some point in 1990 this enterprising individual, who for reasons unknown was carrying a screwdriver on his way home from a gig at the Tote, “rescued” Haring’s signature by loading it into the boot of his car.

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