The iconic Keith Haring mural on Johnston Street, Collingwood has watched over The Tote for almost 30 years. Its colours faded from years of exposure, Arts Victoria recently commissioned Italian conservator Antonio Rava to restore the artwork, and on Sunday the mural was officially ‘unveiled’ by Rava and Victorian Minister for the Arts, Heidi Victoria, in all its former glory.
New York-based street artist Haring first caught the public’s attention with his work in subway stations, his art responding to the street culture of 80s New York City. It was during his visit to Melbourne in 1984 that Haring made his international breakthrough. As he painted his iconic mural on the side of the Collingwood Technical College, he was also gracing the cover of Vanity Fair, which heralded him as the next big thing.
Haring went on to garner wide acclaim, designing motifs for Madonna’s costumes and sets, and painting public works in cities around the world. His distinctive, bright figures captured a sense of movement and vibrancy not yet seen in popular culture, and this signature style influenced the design language of streetwear, skating and music packaging from then on. Although he passed away in 1990 aged just 31, Haring is greatly respected and remembered, with recent retrospectives of his work held in New York and Paris.
Many of his public artworks have been lost over the years (the mural on Johnston Street is one of only 31 known Haring murals in the world). It was added to the Victorian Heritage Register in 2004 and will continue to be protected by Arts Victoria in the coming years. The mural is set to receive more and more attention, with Circus Oz’s move into the Johnston Street site helping to generate foot traffic past the wall, as well as the mural’s 30th anniversary next year.