Three decades after the beloved New York artist visited a school in Melbourne, the mural he made has finally been conserved after significant decay.

Welcome to the latest installation of “Public Access,” where CityLab shares its favorite videos—old and new, serious and nutty—that tell a story about place.

Earlier this year in Amsterdam, a mural painted in 1986 year by the late artist Keith Haring was uncovered along a brick wall hidden behind aluminum insulation panels for years. Forgotten or unknown to most locals three decades after its completion, the mural’s discovery has been a source of excitement.

It’s just one of the 32 known public murals around the world done by Haring, whose playful, socially conscious paintings endure as symbols of New York City’s exciting arts scene of the 1980s. The artist died at age 31 in 1990.

But in Melbourne, a Haring mural nearly faded into obscurity without ever being hidden by a misguided makeover.

As retold in Keith Haring Uncovered, a 2015 documentary by the Australian Broadcast Corporation, the artist’s celebrated visit to the Collingwood Technical School resulted in a stunning mural depicting a giant caterpillar with a computer for a head and a mass of humans trying to climb up to it. Haring’s charm and ease around kids is obvious in the documentary’s archival footage. Former students and teachers tracked down 30 years later still remember him fondly.

Collingwood was an industrial, blue-collar neighborhood when Haring arrived, but gentrification has swept through recently, filling it up with art galleries and expensive real estate. The school closed in 1987. In 2004, the mural was added to the Victorian Heritage Register but it continued to deteriorate. A concerned local stole the small wooden door that contained Haring’s signature to spare it from further decay. In 2010, Creative Victoria, a state agency that advocates for local creative industries, took over management of the site and an effort to conserve the mural began as part of a plan to make the former school into the new Collingwood Arts Precinct.

Today, the mural looks as fresh as it ever has, restored in 2014 by Antonio Rava, who is now responsible for the same task in Amsterdam. The anonymous door thief—one of the more rewarding interviews in Uncovered—returned the prized possession to its right place knowing that the mural’s fate appears to be in good hands now.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A photo of Andrew Field, the owner of Rockaway Taco, looking out from his store in the Rockaway Beach neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York.
    Life

    Tacos and Transit: Rate Your City

    From taco-rich San Diego to the tortilla wastelands of Boston, we asked you to grade U.S. cities on two critical metrics: Mexican food and public transportation.

  2. A photo of shoppers in the central textile market of downtown Jakarta.
    Design

    How Cities Design Themselves

    Urban planner Alain Bertaud’s new book, Order Without Design, argues that cities are really shaped by market forces, not visionaries.

  3. A man uses his mobile phone at night near food stalls at a festival in New York.
    Life

    So You Want to Be a ‘Night Mayor’

    As U.S. cities hire nightlife officials, we talked to people on the job about what they really do—and why you shouldn’t call them “night mayors” at all.

  4. A pupil works on a cardboard architectural model at a Hong Kong primary school.
    Design

    The Case for Architecture Classes in Schools

    Through the organization Architecture for Children, Hong Kong architect Vicky Chan has taught urban design and planning to thousands of kids. Here’s why.

  5. Young students walking towards a  modern wood building surrounded by snow and trees
    Environment

    Norway’s Energy-Positive Building Spree Is Here

    Oslo’s Powerhouse collective wants buildings that make better cities in the face of climate change.