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Keith Haring and Paolo Buggiani

Welcome back to our Blog dedicated to Street Art! Today we want to review with you the careers of the great artist Paolo Buggiani and Keith Haring paying special attention to their friendship in the late 1970s and early 1980s in New York.

Paolo Buggiani: biography

Paolo Buggiani, artist known internationally for his fire sculpture installations, took his first steps in the art world by participating in the first Salone d’Estate in 1955, which was attended by important members of the Roman Avant-Garde such as Accardi, Burri, Capogrossi, Rotella and Uncini. At the beginning of his career Buggiani made ephemeral moving sculptures, installations with fire, paintings about reality and approached Wearable Art.

The Castelfiorentino artist made his first trip to the Big Apple in the 1960s, and it was during his stay that he met the father of Pop Art: Andy Warhol.

However, the real revolution in the Tuscan master’s artistic research took place in 1978 when he returned to New York for the second time and began his studies on Mechanical Reptiles and Urban Mythology, thus joining the ranks of the greatest names in Street Art: Keith Haring, Richard Hambleton and Ken Hiratsuka.

Paolo Buggiani – Fire sculptures on water, Castello di S. Severa, 1985, courtesy Alberto Griffi

Street Art in New York: Keith Haring

In the late 1970s, New York was witnessing the proliferation of Street Art: movement that sprung up spontaneously and illegally through the graffiti that numerous young people from the suburbs were creating on the streets of the metropolis and on train cars. These new generations from marginal communities aimed to make their voices heard within society by breaking away from the traditional art system.

In the 1980s with his works Keith Haring was among the first exponents of Street Art, along with Jean-Michel Basquiat, to bring their creations to galleries and museum institutions. The Harlem mural “Crack is Wack”, the 300-meter decoration of the Berlin Wall at the height of the Cold War, and the last urban intervention before his untimely death made in Pisa, “Tutto Mondo” are considered masterpieces of Keith Haring. Works characterized by direct communication, easily understood and immediately recognizable by all thanks to his iconic stylized little men. Haring used these characters to deal with important issues of the 1980s – drugs, war and homosexuality – in order to raise awareness.

Keith Haring, Crack is wack, Harlem (New York), Photo by James Leynse/Corbis via Getty Images

Paolo Buggiani – Keith Haring: friendship in New York

Here, then, is explained the context within which Buggiani and Haring met, a period when the urban scene encountered artistic experimentation on a daily basis. Right from the start, the Italian artist sensed the genius of street artist Keith Haring and the value of his creations, so much so that between 1981 and 1982 he detached from the walls and kept about fifty “Subway drawings”: the first works in chalk that the American artist made on the black posters that covered expired advertisements. Paolo Buggiani proved, once again, that he possessed foresight when in 1984 he captured Haring working on the Bowery Wall, a famous mural in Manhattan.

With one of his drawings, Keith Haring left a testament to the precious friendship that bound him to Paolo Buggiani. The work depicted a man with wings and a dedication “For Paolo.”

Keith Haring, For Paolo, drawing, exhibition MADE IN NEW YORK

Altro elemento evidente della loro amicizia si può notare nelle opere di Buggiani realizzate in quegli anni a New York che mostrano quanto l’arte di Haring abbia influenzato il suo stile: lavori sempre più effimeri creati nel panorama urbano e distanti dalle richieste del mercato, come per esempio l’opera Painting on snow. Ice Palace dipinta sulla neve durante l’inverno del ’79.

Paolo Buggiani and Keith Haring: exhibition MADE IN NEW YORK

In Florence in 2017 Palazzo Medici Ricciardi, under the patronage of the municipality of Cervia, dedicated a retrospective to street artist Paolo Buggiani and his relationship with Keith Haring – MADE IN NEW YORK. KEITH HARING (Subway drawings) + Paolo Buggiani (& Friends). The True Origin of Street Art – curated by Gianluca Marziani and Stefano Antonelli. The exhibition highlighted the key role played by the Florentine Buggiani, who was among the first to realize the potential of the works by Keith Haring. The exhibition was later shown again in Cervia in 2022 at the Magazzino del Sale.

Have you visited it?

Exhibition MADE IN NEW YORK in Cervia, 2022, Credits Roberta Arcangeli

Did you know about this incredible friendship? If you would like to learn more about the art of Buggiani please contact us at wunderkammern@wunderkammern.net and it will be our pleasure to share with you the catalogue with all the works available in the gallery!

We will leave you an anteprima here 😊