Keith Haring was diagnosed with AIDS in 1988. In 1989, he established the Keith Haring Foundation, to provide funding and imagery to AIDS organizations and children’s programs, and to expand the audience for Haring’s work through exhibitions, publications, and the licensing of his images.
Haring used his imagery during the last years of his life to speak about his own illness and generate activism and awareness about AIDS. By expressing universal concepts of birth, death, love, sex, and war, through his art, Haring was able to attract a wide audience and assure the accessibility and staying power of his imagery, which has become a universally recognized visual language of the 20th century. When once asked to state the values he was trying to impart in his work, Keith replied,
“A more holistic and basic idea of wanting to incorporate art into every part of life, less as an egotistical exercise and more natural somehow… taking it off the pedestal…giving it back to the people, I guess.”
Keith Haring died of AIDS related complications at the age of 31 on February 16, 1990.