Arriving in New York in 1978 to study at the School of Visual Arts, Haring was inspired by the East Village club scene identified with punk and rap music, breakdancing and graffiti as a public statement of personal expression. Working with remarkable speed and clarity, Haring's images convey a conspicuous energy in the brevity of his line, bold color relationships conveying his early interest in graphic design, and simplified figurative forms.
As he became prominent with the gallery and museum world, Haring provoked additional debate by purposely commercializing his own work, reproducing his signature figures on an array of products and opening his own retail stores including Wham Bam in Miami and the Pop Shop in New York. Success afforded him the opportunity to control his own market and remain independent, crucial to his vision of his work.
From 1985 until his death in 1990 from complications due to AIDS, Haring concentrated much of his extraordinary energy on visual political messages, particularly focusing on generating action and conveying the dangers and effects of AIDS.