This blog is dedicated to the life and memory of an incredible artist. This blog is dedicated to Keith Haring. If you don’t know, you should check him out. If you do, I’ll save you the bio regurgitation.
But, I will share this amazing experience with you.
On my recent trip to Japan, I had the most amazing Keith Haring experience. After my first few days in Tokyo, I decided I would pack up my stuff and head up to the mountains to a town called Kobuchizawa. About a 10 minute drive away from the train station, in a beautiful natural enviornment, is the Nakamura Keith Haring Collection. It is a privately owned collection. The owner, Nakamura, has built a beautiful, modern gallery as a home to many precious Keith Haring works. Making the journey to Kobuchizawa was at the very top of my things I wanted to do in Japan.
So, when I arrived in Kobuchizawa, the only option to my lodge (across from the Keith Haring museum) was by taxi. I don’t speak Japanese. When I hopped into the taxi, I asked the driver to go to my hotel ” Kobuchizawa Art Village.” He had no idea what or where this was…. we must have spent 10 minutes trying to communicate to each other. I couldn’t explain to him other than the information I had copied from the hotel website. I tried calling the hotel from my phone, but they didn’t answer. Panic was starting to set in because in Tokyo things had gone so smoothly. Finally, I said two words “Keith Haring” and he immediately replied “Ahhh! Keith Haring. Ok!” And off we went. Crisis averted. As we got closer I started to notice Keith’s iconic red dog image. We were close. As we drove down a rural road, I saw the gallery. I knew my hotel was somewhere near. That’s where I wanted him to take me, but he pulled up in front of the gallery. A man was outside shovelling snow. The driver spoke to him in Japanese and all of the sudden I was paying and getting out of the taxi. He wanted me to go with him to the gallery. I had my bag and everything. I was trying to explain I wanted to go to the hotel first, but we walked up to the front door anyhow. A sinking feeling came over me….. it was closed. Not closed as in it wasn’t opening hours– I mean closed. For the winter. Despair!
This was my whole reason for coming to Kobuchizawa. I had psyched myself up to have this amazing experience and anticipated seeing Keith’s art. The man, in very few words, asked me to wait outside and he disappeared. A couple of minutes passed and he showed up on the other side of the door and unlocked it. He was letting me in. I had no idea why. He led me to the Pop Shop. There was a table. He asked me to wait there. I could see a jacket or two on this table and faintly heard voices. A few minutes passed by when this young woman, Emily, came and greeted me. I explained to her that I was looking for the hotel. She was very polite and explained the gallery was closed and then she asked me “Do you want to see the collection?” I almost cried. I happily replied “YES please!” So I left my bags and my coat in the Pop Shop, she gave me a guide and let me loose. I had the whole gallery to myself. It was unbelievable! I couldn’t believe all of this was happening.
The collection is amazing. The first large space has some of Keith’s very large works as well as some of his sculptures. It’s a very bright open space. The next space is decorated wall-to-wall in Keith’s iconic lines. There were limited edition screen prints and a glass case of items (clothing, shoes) that he designed. The next space was called the “Thinking Room.” You enter into a dark room. Only the art work is illuminated. This room included many of Keith’s original drawings, subway chalk drawings, and a hand-painted motorcycle. There were two lazyboy chairs in the Thinking Room and I just sat in one and tried to absorb everything that had happened and how completely lucky I had been.
When I returned to the Pop Shop, I was allowed to ….well, shop. And I did. I was on a high. I didn’t want to leave, but I also didn’t want to overstay and take for granted Emily’s generosity and kindness. She approached asking ” How did you like it?” I had the hardest time fighting off tears. I felt so emotional. I could only express how much I loved it and how thankful I was. Her kindness meant everything to me that day. She truly exemplified Keith’s motto: “Art is for everybody.”
Throughout Keith’s career as an artist, he strongly believed that the public has a right to art. That’s what motivated him to take his art to the street and underground in the subways. Art was for the people. Throughout his career, Keith, himself, was very accessible to the public. He always had time, in a very busy lifestyle, for his fans and especially for children. He advocated the importance of art in the lives of children and offered his talent and his time to enriching their lives. Even after death, Keith’s foundation continues to participate in children’s programs all over the world.
His life was cut too short, but Keith’s legacy lives on. He is everywhere — sometimes in the most unsuspecting places.
I can’t explain how much this day meant to me. It’s something I will never forget.
Not just on this day, but everyday, so many people will remember Keith Haring. He will never be forgotten.