Keith Haring painting a mural on The Berlin Wall. October 23, 1986. Photos by Tseng Kwong Chi.
Keith Haring had been invited by the Director of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum to paint the mural. He began shortly after 10 A.M., Since the first six feet of land on the Western side belong to the East, he was not just defacing property of the East German Government, he was entering that country without a visa. A West Berlin policeman used a megaphone to warn him of the fact. But Haring continued, sporadically leaping back onto Western soil when East German border guards looked as if they were about to arrest him.
After 90 minutes, he had completed a third of his mural. He painted an interlocking chain of red and black human forms on a bright yellow background. The colors were those of the East and West German flags.
The artist gave interviews to West German television and radio reporters as he worked and signed autographs. “It’s a humanistic gesture, more than anything else,” said Haring, who called his work “a political and subversive act - an attempt to psychologically destroy the wall by painting it.’‘Asked whether the event was merely a publicity stunt to draw attention to himself, he said, ’'The main objective here is that it is not an insignificant act that goes unnoticed. The entire world should know that it happened, reinforcing its political significance.”
Haring completed the mural shortly after 4 P.M., He denied that it was aimed specifically against East Germany. “It’s for people and it doesn’t matter which side of the wall they’re on. It’s about both sides coming together.”
By the next day, however, someone painted large sections of the mural grey and quickly, other artists painted graffiti on the hundred-metre section that Haring had used. Within months there was very little left to see.