The restoration of Keith Haring’s ‘Crack is Wack’ mural is now complete

October 25, 2019

Images courtesy of NYC Parks

After a couple of months of work, Keith Haring’s iconic “Crack is Wack” mural in East Harlem is now fully restored. As 6sqft previously reported, Haring painted the 16-foot by 26-foot mural on a handball court at East 128th Street and the Harlem River Drive in 1986 to draw attention to the crack cocaine epidemic. Composed with the artist’s signature kinetic figures and bold abstract forms, the piece has been celebrated as one of his most important works. It was refurbished and repainted by artists Louise Hunnicutt and William Tibbals, with support from the Keith Haring Foundation.

Keith Haring, Crack is Wack, Murals, East Harlem, Restoration

Keith Haring, Crack is Wack, Murals, East Harlem, Restoration

Much of the paint on the concrete wall was peeling off, so Hunnicutt and Tibbals repainted the mural with a more durable paint. To complete the work, the artists made precise tracings over both wall faces then removed all loose paint. The wall was then patched and sealed, with several base coats of fixative applied, followed by coats of color-matched paint.

The design was recreated using the artist’s tracings and by consulting photographs of the original work. Prior to this, the mural was most recently restored in 2012.

Keith Haring, Crack is Wack, Murals, East Harlem, Restoration

“The ‘Crack is Wack’ mural is a testament to the enduring power of Haring’s art, which arose first in public spaces,” Jonathan Kuhn, the NYC Parks Director of Art & Antiquities, said. “We are grateful to the conservators and the Keith Haring Foundation for its continuing support to preserve this mural’s vibrancy and flair for all to see.”

“We are thrilled that ‘Crack Is Wack’ has been restored to its original glory,” added Keith Haring Foundation Acting Director and President Gil Vazquez. “It is a huge source of pride for our city and a lasting reminder of Keith’s legacy and political activism.”

Last week the New York Times reported that a lesser-known Haring mural housed inside Grace House—a former Catholic youth center on Manhattan’s Upper West Side—has been removed and will soon head to auction.

Haring painted the piece the same night he received the commission, filling the building’s lobby and stairwell with thirteen figures including a crawling baby and a barking dog. The piece will be on display at Bonhams auction house from November 2 to November 13, when the auction will be held. It’s expected to fetch at least $3 million.


Images courtesy of NYC Parks

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