From February 27 through September 25, 2022, NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale presented Confrontation: Keith Haring and Pierre Alechinsky, the first exhibition dedicated to exploring the historic and visual intersections between American street artist and art activist Keith Haring (1958-1990) and virtuosic Belgian painter, Pierre Alechinsky (b. 1927), the last surviving member of the European avant-garde art movement, CoBrA.
In 1977, while studying at the Ivy School of Professional Art in Pittsburgh, the then 19–year-old Keith Haring visited the Museum of Art at the Carnegie Institute, where he encountered a retrospective of Pierre Alechinsky. Throughout Haring’s renowned career, he would credit the experience of seeing Alechinsky’s work at the Carnegie as a watershed moment for him as an artist.
In interviews, Haring would repeatedly describe the sudden “rush of confidence” he had when he saw Alechinsky’s self-generating shapes and framing devices, which were so similar to his own, but had been realized on a monumental scale.
Alechinsky’s expressive and spontaneous lines thrilled Haring, who returned to the exhibition multiple times, studied the exhibition catalog, read Alechinsky’s writings and watched films of him painting enormous canvases on the floor. Haring immediately started working bigger, painting horizontally and incorporating spontaneous drips into his compositions. While Haring maintained a controlled line that was less fluid than Alechinsky’s, this encounter assured him that he was “doing something that was worthwhile.”
The inspiration that Haring derived from Alechinsky early in his career remained a constant throughout his life. In the eighties, Haring and Alechinsky began a correspondence that lead to a meeting at Alechinsky’s studio in Bougival, France. This experience is preserved through traded artworks and a forthcoming testimonial written by Alechinsky on the occasion of this exhibition.
Confrontation: Keith Haring and Pierre Alechinsky drew major attention in celebrating one of the most beloved figures of 20th-century American art, while simultaneously providing a means of access to one of the legends of European avant-garde. This exhibition differentiated itself from past iterations of Haring presentations through its emphasis on showing the artist’s place within a broader historical lineage that extends to artists beyond American borders.
In connecting Haring to CoBrA, this presentation emphasizes the under-recognized legacy of this key experimental movement, one that eroded artistic and social barriers by bringing work into the streets and adapting non-traditional creative sources including children’s art and pre-historic visual culture in order to instigate social change.
NSU Art Museum’s collection of CoBrA art is the largest in an American museum. CoBrA – an acronym for the three capital cities in which its founding members originated: Copenhagen (Denmark), Brussels (Belgium), and Amsterdam (the Netherlands) – is the international, interdisciplinary, and collective art movement that spanned from 1948-1951.
Confrontation: Keith Haring and Pierre Alechinsky was curated by Ariella Wolens, Bryant-Taylor Curator with Bonnie Clearwater, Director and Chief Curator of NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale.
NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale is located at One East Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301.
For more information, please visit nsuartmuseum.org or call 954-525-5500. Follow the Museum on social media @nsuartmuseum.
About NSU Art Museum
Founded in 1958, NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale is a premier destination for exhibitions and programs encompassing many facets of civilization’s visual history. Located midway between Miami and Palm Beach in downtown Fort Lauderdale’s arts and entertainment district, the Museum’s 83,000 square – foot building, which opened in 1986, was designed by architect Edward Larrabee Barnes and contains over 25,000 square feet of exhibition space, the 256 -seat Horvitz auditorium, a museum store and café.
In 2008, the Museum became part of Nova Southeastern University (NSU), one of the largest private research universities in the United States. NSU Art Museum is known for its significant collection of Latin American art, contemporary art with an emphasis on art by Black, Latinx and women artists, African art that spans the 19th to the 21st-century, as well as works by American artist William Glackens, and the European Cobra group of artists.