News for penises: the Haring commemorative bathroom

(Sexually explicit images, but they’re certifiably Art, so they should be displayable here. If this is not the sort of thing you want to see, then pass on.)

More Pride Month news. From the Artsy site on the 13th, “Keith Haring’s Most Risqué Mural Is Hidden in a Public Bathroom” by Alexxa Gotthardt:

Masterpieces don’t often end up in public bathrooms.

But boundary-defying street artist Keith Haring didn’t care for the distinctions about where art could and should be made; his canvases were Manhattan’s buildings, streets, and subways. On them, he scrawled ecstatic, aroused bodies that radiated with bursts of energy.

Many of Haring’s public paintings have disappeared since they emerged from his prolific brush in the 1970s and ’80s. The city government treated them as acts of vandalism, or they were rubbed away by the wear and tear of time. Luckily, though, one of his most audacious, masterful murals still stands—and you can find it in a bathroom that’s open to the public every day of the week.

(Hat tip to Tim Pierce.)



The Artsy story continues:

On a recent afternoon, I headed to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center on West 13th Street in downtown Manhattan. A large rainbow flag flapped above the entrance, and a man at the front desk directed me up a short flight of stairs: “The Haring’s just up there. Hang out as long as you want.” From just outside the bathroom, the corner of a painting was visible through a frosted glass bathroom door that’d been left ajar. It shows an erect penis emanating Haring’s signature squiggles.

Haring was gay and active in the 1980s LGBT rights movement, and made striking posters and paintings advocating for safe sex, awareness, and research around HIV and AIDS. One of his most searing pieces shows three figures with large X’s on their torsos, and hands over their eyes, ears, and mouth. Slogans that read “Ignorance = Fear” and “Silence = Death” box them in.

When the LGBT Community Center invited Haring in 1989 to create a work in their new 13th Street home, he enthusiastically accepted, choosing to locate the mural in the building’s second-floor men’s bathroom. “The work really powerfully captures a time and an energy when our community was fighting for our lives— trying to stay resistant, and celebrating what we could,” says Glennda Testone, the LGBTQ Community Center’s Executive Director.

Haring titled the piece Once Upon a Time, a nod to the gay community’s halcyon days of free love. Over the course of several days, he covered every un-tiled surface of the bathroom with turgid, squirting penises of all sizes. Some are attached to buff male bodies tangled together in pleasure. Others float like happy clouds or hungry dragons. One impressively large specimen hovers over a line of small figures who are either dancing the conga or enjoying an orgy.

A Haring political work (on behalf of ACT-UP), without penises. And Haring figures dancing joyously.



2 Responses to “News for penises: the Haring commemorative bathroom”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    I’ve been in that building for contra dances a number of times, and never knew about this. But then the dances are on the third floor.

    • thnidu Says:

      Hi, Robert. Mark Mandel here. As soon as I saw “contra dances” (which was before I noticed the name; that’s just how I read) I was sure it was from either you or John.

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