Haring painted the original mural in 1989, a year after learning he had AIDS
Ferran Mascarell, Catalonia’s Minister of Culture, presided over the inauguration of the new recreation of Keith Haring’s anti-AIDS mural in Barcelona this morning, next to Barcelona’s contemporary art museum, MACBA, with a crowd of several hundred people in attendance.
In 1989, the graphic artist and social activist, Keith Haring, happened to be in Barcelona for a few days. In one of those fortuitous accidents, he bumped into an old acquaintance, Montse Guillén, the owner of El Internacional restaurant in New York City. When she suggested he do a painting in Barcelona, related to AIDS, he accepted right away, with only one condition: that he be allowed to choose the site for the mural.
In that era, the “Barri Xino” of Barcelona, or ‘Chinese neighborhood’ was known for its rough drug culture. For Haring, this was where he wanted to paint. Within hours, they not only got the necessary permissions from the city government but also found the perfect site: a low, dilapidated wall in the heart of the Barri Xino, in Plaça Salvador Seguí. Haring drew the thirty-foot long mural—representing a long red snake, smothering a hypodermic needle—with House music and a bevy of curious neighborhood kids for company in the space of five hours.
Haring, born in Pennsylvania in the late 50’s, had been diagnosed with AIDS the previous year. He was one of the first people to not only not keep his illness a secret, but to speak out publicly about it, as Ferran Pujol remembered today in the inauguration of the mural’s recreation next to Barcelona’s MACBA museum. Haring died at the age of 31 in 1990.