The Boxers, by Keith Haring, is one of many art installations built in the city of Berlin during 1987, the year that marked the city’s 750th anniversary. Installations such as the Arc de 124,5°, Carillon Berlin and ‘Broken Chains’, were all installed within the western half of the city to commemorate the many centuries the city has thrived and the many hardships the city’s people have survived through.
Keith Haring was a sculptor and artist from New York who was renowned for using bright colours and comic-strip style of artwork. Although the vast amount of his pieces were on a 2D medium, there are a few pieces, such as The Boxers, which have become cornerstones of his style with a completely different aesthetic. The two fighting figures have been installed in front of the Berlin Philharmonie and next to the many theatres, museums and attractions around Potsdamer Platz.
Keith Haring’s link with the Western half of the city is one that many likely had, with Berlin being pumped full of the latest fashion, design and architecture to showcase capitalism’s power of the communist East Berlin. This influx of money, goods and services naturally brought with it the cutting edge designers and figures of the day such as Andy Warhol and David Bowie.
Haring himself became good friends with this group, being seen frequently alongside Andy Warhol and their pieces being seen next to each other at galleries and exhibitions. Haring passed away only a few years after the installation of The Boxers, suffering from HIV/AIDS, something he had campaigned to improve research quality of, during his short time at the top of the art food chain.
Haring’s piece not only reflects his own style of bright colours and comic strip figures, his personal values around homosexuality (which could be linked to two similar gender looking characters), but also the depiction of the city. Two figures seemingly fighting, but have also been interpreted as embracing, this theory could then be linked to the two halves of the city fighting, however, in actual fact was bringing them closer together.
Showcasing the contrast in quality of life between communist and capitalist states was one of the side effects (or potential goals) of the Western politicians at this time. This contrast was showcased by the many interesting art pieces created around the city, and those that are still standing today, not only as an attraction, but also as a memorial of the culture of the day that brought Berlin back into the eyes of many despite its isolation in the heart of the Iron Curtain.