In one such memory, Doonan watches as Haring sets up one of his installations as a backdrop at Paradise Garage—although whether it was for a Grace Jones performance or a Larry Levan DJ set, he can’t quite recall. “Keith was a bit hurt because people ignored it and carried on dancing, but I remember standing there and watching him install it,” Doonan says. “It was a chaotic period, but it was always fun.”
All the same, for Doonan, the excitement in retelling Haring’s story lies less in the frisson of his interactions with the artist and more in highlighting the aspects of his practice that were, in hindsight, astonishingly ahead of their time. Haring’s radically democratic understanding of what art could be—realized through projects like the Pop Shop and the subway graffiti pieces he delighted in seeing members of the public snatch away before the police got to them—may be well-known now, but in his ’80s heyday, it was a blurring of high and low that scandalized the art world.
Not that Haring really cared. He loved fashion too, whether painting Grace Jones from head to toe (with accessories by the late David Spada to cover her modesty) or lending his prints to Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren on the other side of the pond to integrate into their chopped-and-screwed punk fashion fantasies. “Historically, art and artists have stayed very far away from fashion,” Doonan notes. “But this was a time when style, fashion, art, music, hip-hop, break-dancing, graffiti all fell into this blender of New York City, and it was a tremendously energized period.
“Everyone approached it with no preconceived ideas,” he continues, “so you ended up in a situation where Madonna, Keith Haring, Warhol, and Grace Jones were the new aristocrats of this movement, this new collaborative collision that was taking place in Lower Manhattan.”
Of course, Haring’s legacy as one of the most significant artists of the 1980s is now sacrosanct—but for Doonan, part of the fun of revisiting his body of work was imagining how keenly at home Haring would be in the campy, hyper-saturated celebrity culture of the present day. In the book’s epilogue, he pictures Haring working with Louis Vuitton in the same vein of the customized handbags created by Marc Jacobs in collaboration with artists like Yayoi Kusama and Richard Prince, or hanging out with Kanye and Kim Kardashian West at their home in Calabasas. The strange matrix of celebrity, art, and fashion that Haring quietly predicted has now, very loudly, come to pass.