Of the many new features unveiled two years ago after the New York Historical Society’s $65-million renovation — the cheerful children’s library, interactive touchscreen displays, Stephen Starr restaurant, and more — one that makes the Upper West Side institution particularly proud is the remnant of Keith Haring’s beloved Pop Shop ceiling hanging above the lobby, easily recognizable for its dynamic solid black lines. As a nod to this treasure and the quintessentially New York figure who created it, the NYHS is currently exhibiting a Pop Shop of its own, but with a Japanese flair.
The ephemeral 1988 Tokyo Pop Shop, conceived by Haring with husband-and-wife friends and filmmakers Kaz Kuzui and Fran Rubel Kuzui, opened and closed within months due to dismal sales. “There are just too many Haring fakes available all over Tokyo and, this time, they’re really well done,” the artist lamented. For the duration of its short shelf life, the shop (made of two shipping containers welded together, a fact that should bring a smile to most architecture wonks’ faces) mostly resembled its New York counterpart. However, just like international versions of Pizza Hut, potato chips, and McDonald’s, the brand’s flavor was tailored to the taste of local citizens. It peddled traditional Japanese wares: fans, paper lanterns, and rice bowls adorned with familiar Haring archetypes. His signature buttons even bore messages written in Japanese characters.
All of these are on view at a rotating display at the NYHS through June 2, thanks to a loan by the Keith Haring Foundation Archive.
— Janelle Zara