A Pile of Crowns for Jean-Michel Basquiat

A Pile of Crowns for Jean-Michel Basquiat is a painting created by American artist Keith Haring in 1988. The artwork was made to memorialize his friend, artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. It depicts a towering pile of Basquiat's trademark crowns.

A Pile of Crowns for Jean-Michel Basquiat
ArtistKeith Haring
MediumAcrylic on canvas
MovementPop art
Dimensions270 cm × 300 cm (108 in × 120 in)
OwnerThe Keith Haring Foundation


Haring moved to New York City from Kutztown in 1978 to study painting at the School of Visual Arts. He became immersed in the art scene of the East Village and befriended Brooklyn native Jean-Michel Basquiat. Before becoming a leading artist in the neo-expressionism movement, Basquiat started out doing street art in lower Manhattan as SAMO.[1] In 1989, Haring told Rolling Stone: "Before I knew who he was, I became obsessed with Jean-Michel Basquiat's work."[2] He added, "The stuff I saw on the walls was more poetry than graffiti. They were sort of philosophical poems that would use the language the way Burroughs did – in that it seemed like it could mean something other than what it was. On the surface they seemed really simple, but the minute I saw them I knew that they were more than that. From the beginning he was my favorite artist."[2] Haring became inspired and he also took to the streets where he became popular for his New York City subways drawings. By 1983, Basquiat and Haring both had established gallery representation in the United States and Europe. They had also became friends with their idol, pop artist Andy Warhol.[2] Although Haring and Basquiat never collaborated, they remained close friends.[3] Following Basquiat's death from a heroin overdose on August 12, 1988, Haring wrote his obituary for Vogue and created A Pile of Crowns for Jean-Michel Basquiat in tribute.[4] Haring was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS that year. He died on February 16, 1990, of AIDS-related complications.[5]

A Pile of Crowns for Jean-Michel Basquiat was painted on a triangular canvas, like a warning sign, edged with a red outline.[6] In the center is a towering pile of black and white crowns on the ground glistening triumphantly. The three-pointed crown was Basquiat's signature artistic motif.[4] It appears so often in his artwork that it has become a recognizable symbol in popular culture.[7] On the bottom right corner is a copyright symbol, which was one of Basquiat's signature symbols.


The Political Line at de Young museum in San Francisco, November 2014–February 2015.[8]

Crossing Lines at National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, December 2019–March 2020.[9]


  1. ^ Hill, Peter (December 13, 2019). "Basquiat, Haring and the golden age of graffiti". Financial Times.
  2. ^ a b c Sheff, David (August 10, 1989). "Keith Haring: Just Say Know". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2020-10-07.
  3. ^ Haden-Guest, Anthony (November 1988). "Burning Out". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2020-10-07.
  4. ^ a b Percival, Lindy (November 21, 2019). "Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat: art stars who shone too briefly". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2020-10-07.
  5. ^ Grishin, Sasha. "'Nothing quite prepares you for the impact of this exhibition': Haring Basquiat at the NGV". The Conversation. Retrieved 2020-10-07.
  6. ^ Kolossa, Alexandra; Haring, Keith (2004). Haring. Taschen. p. 71. ISBN 978-3-8228-3145-8.
  7. ^ Watson, Meg (February 23, 2020). "'We were all a little bit punk': Haring, Basquiat and the art that defined 80s New York". The Guardian. Retrieved 2020-10-07.
  8. ^ "Keith Haring: The Political Line". de Young. Retrieved 2020-10-07.
  9. ^ "Keith Haring | Jean-Michel Basquiat | NGV". National Gallery of Victoria. Retrieved 2020-10-07.