Keith Haring's Pop Shop
Art for the Masses
Before expansive museum gift shops or artist merch, there was Keith Haring’s Pop Shop. The Pop Shop opened its doors in 1986 in Manhattan and grew out of Haring’s belief in, and insistence on, the accessibility of art to everyone. By that time, he was an international star whose works were selling for tens of thousands of dollars, but in keeping with his egalitarian approach to art, he stated the philosophy behind the shop as wanting to “continue this same sort of communication as with the subway drawings…I wanted it to be a place where, yes, not only collectors could come, but also kids from the Bronx.”
Visitors entered a space covered floor to ceiling in Haring’s signature graphic designs, and could buy a range of items from buttons to shirts, posters to stickers, and even smiling penises encouraging safe sex. The shop was such a huge success that he opened one in Tokyo in 1987, which closed the following year. The New York shop outlived Haring, operating until 2005. Its original ceiling was donated to the New York Historical Society where it hangs in their lobby still accessible to the masses just as Haring would have wished.