1983 & 1986
The photos of Keith Haring in cut-offs and big glasses chalking his curved figures on advertising boards in the subway are iconic images of 1980s cool and of a form of art open to all. The first official exhibition of Keith Haring’s work was held in 1982 at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery in New York, and was hugely successful. Pierre Keller met Haring a few months later and asked him to produce a Festival poster featuring a dancing figure. Haring came up with three designs, all of which were accepted. The posters sold poorly, however, since Haring had not yet made a name for himself on the other side of the Atlantic. Keller took the remaining stock home, with each poster selling for between 8,000 and 10,000 francs several years later. Not a bad deal! More importantly, that summer of 1983 Keller and Nobs had the brainwave of inviting the New York artist to Montreux. As always, Haring painted constantly, producing murals on large blank panels and dashing off drawings on t-shirts. All forms of media seemed to suit the artist, whose meteoric rise was matched only by the speed of his drawing.
Celebrating twenty years of the Festival and Claude Nobs’s fiftieth birthday called for a very special poster indeed. Pierre Keller came up with the goods by bringing together Keith Haring and Andy Warhol for the first collaboration between the two New York icons. But the day before Keller was due to return from New York with the finished poster, nothing was ready. Haring thus suggested that Warhol draw a series of staves, and positioned dancing figures between them that resemble musical notes. The two artists decided to paint the poster in red and yellow. “It’s very Swiss, and will remind people of Maggi seasoning,” Keller commented. The Festival’s artistic advisor was able to take the poster away with him, with the typography and signatures of the two artists following on by UPS delivery a few days later.