One of the greatest early supporters of graffiti artists was Martin Wong, a painter who lived in New York City during the city’s Golden Age of graffiti. Wong collected the work of young artists working outdoors like Lee Quinones, Rammellzee and Keith Haring. Wong’s collection is perhaps the best existing set of artworks that together give a sense of modern graffiti’s early days in the city where it (effectively) began. In the mid-90’s, Wong donated the whole thing to the Museum of the City of New York. It’s a collection that early writers often tell me about with a sense of wonder, and they always suggest that I have a look at the collection because I could learn a thing or two from it. Now, works from the are about to be exhibited publicly at the Museum of the City of New York for the first time.
City as Canvas: Graffiti Art from the Martin Wong Collection opens next Tuesday the 4th at the Museum of the City of New York. I’m excited to see so much early work (nearly 150 pieces) in person, and to hopefully get a sense of how Wong saw the early graffiti scene. In addition to some early canvas work by artists like Lady Pink and Daze, the collection includes a subset of work that should be particularly interesting for those of us interested in the history of graffiti: perhaps the only collection of blackbook sketches in a museum possession. The show also includes a new short film by Charlie Ahearn and photographs by Ahearn, Martha Cooper, Jack Stewart and Jon Naar. In case it’s not already obvious, let me just state that this sounds like it will be a must-see exhibition for graffiti geeks.
The show is accompanied by a new book by Carlo McCormick and the show’s curator Sean Corcoran.
City as Canvas opens February 4th and runs through July 27th.
Photo courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York