The red mural in Haring’s signature style, depicting a figure with a flower for a head, was a tribute to the acid house music scene of the time. After the club’s closing in 1993, the venue became a billiards hall. The owners revealed that they were planning to demolish the building—and, with it, the Haring mural. Since the announcement, there has been a scramble to determine the fate the mural, including if it could be safely removed and possibly sold.
The manager of the billiards hall, Gabriel Carral, told the Guardian, that the Keith Haring Foundation offed to buy the mural for €80,000 (or roughly $97,000), as well as the cost of removing the piece. (Carral’s rental agreement reportedly contains a clause that would allow him to own the work.)
The Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona (MACBA) houses a copy of the mural, though MACBA has not tried to acquire the work. Some would prefer the mural stay in its current location in the spirit of Haring’s artistic intent that his work live in the world, freely available.
A spokesperson for the Barcelona council told the Guardian, “We have guaranteed the mural’s protection under the special urban plan and have asked the Generalitat [Catalan regional government] to declare it as part of our cultural heritage.”
This is not the first time one of Haring’s murals has been threatened with demolition. In 2011, a mural that Haring painted in Paris around 1987 was almost destroyed after years of neglect left it heavily damaged. After concerted restoration efforts, the 88½-foot artwork was revealed to the public in 2017.
On the same trip to Barcelona, where he made the mural now threatened, Haring had painted a memorial to people lost to HIV/AIDS that was vandalized shortly afterward.
During his lifetime, Haring acknowledged that some of his public artworks might not survive in perpetuity. After he completed a mural on the corner of Houston Street and the Bowery in New York, he said, “It’s vulnerable to whatever is going to happen to it from the outside world.”