The Soprintendenza ai Beni Culturali, that very bureaucratic Italian body that rules over the Italian artistic heritage, is famous for protecting Roman ruins and Medieval towns. It’s also the people one has to contend with when renovating an old house, one that could follow under the broad category of “historical relevance” which, in Italy, could be any structure built before 1930. But in an unexpected and surprising move, the Soprintendenza recently granted “protected status” to a 200 sq m graffiti by Keith Haring, residing on the back wall of the Church of S. Antonio in Pisa since 1989.
Remember Keith Haring? He of dancing figures, before urban art was…well…art.
How Keith Haring found himself in Pisa is the merit of Piergiorgio Castellani who, in 1988 was a 19-year-old student, travelling to New York. Spotting Keith Haring in the street, Piergiorgio struck up a conversation which ended into an invitation to work in Pisa. Or so the story goes.
The mural, titled “Tuttomondo” (the whole world) has been meticulously restored and, upon closer inspection, it’s not all about happy dancing figures but, as Keith Haring’s work is wont to do, it encompasses deeper meanings.
Thirty moving bodies are meant to represent harmony and world peace: the human scissors are a symbol of collaboration among men, working to defeat the “snake” (evil). The man supporting the dolphin symbolizes nature…all of the fundamental themes Keith Haring painted over and over are there: birth, death and war.
“Tuttomondo” is Keith Haring’s last public work. He died on February 16, 1990.
“No matter how long you work, it’s always going to end sometime. And there’s always going to be things left undone. And it wouldn’t matter if you lived until you were seventy-five. There would still be new ideas. There would still be things that you wished you would have accomplished. You could work for several lifetimes….Part of the reason that I’m not having trouble facing the reality of death is that it’s not a limitation, in a way. It could have happened any time, and it is going to happen sometime. If you live your life according to that, death is irrelevant. Everything I’m doing right now is exactly what I want to do.”
“All of the things that you make are a kind of quest for immortality. Because you’re making these things that you know have a different kind of life. They don’t depend on breathing, so they’ll last longer than any of us will. Which is sort of an interesting idea, that it’s sort of extending your life to some degree.”
To check out the complete works of Keith Haring, visit the Keith Haring Foundation
Thanks to Lolly for bringing this to my attention
All photos copyright of Keith Haring Foundation