The late artist Keith Haring is known for bold, brightly coloured squiggles of faceless dancing figures and barking dogs. But behind the cartoonish graffiti was artwork that served as vessels of morality and political messaging. To extend his reach as widely as possible, he distributed his works with accessibility in mind, circumventing the exclusive system of art institutions — if, at least, only in the beginning. As Haring gained popular acclaim he also made the most of the opportunities that came with his meteoric success, using his fame for political activism and campaigning tirelessly for gay rights, especially when it came to the AIDS crisis.
Today, the American artist’s distinct illustrations can be found on T-shirts, in museums and as outsize murals on public buildings. It is in his enduring spirit that fashion house Coach has taken his works and printed them across a collection of handbags meant to be toted conspicuously — and talked about. One particular illustration, an untitled 1981 artwork, depicts a gleeful Mickey Mouse illuminated by the beaming searchlight of a flying saucer — a classic example of how Haring liked to use UFOs as metaphors for otherness. A pair of Mickey Mouse ears atop a structured bag is also a playful echo of his recurring use of the 92-year-old icon as a symbol of America. This latest partnership with Haring is yet another triumph for Coach, as it continues its series of collaborations with pop cultural icons to celebrate artists who have helped define American culture and, in turn, shape the storied American brand.
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