City as Canvas: New York City Graffiti From the 70s & 80s

Exhibition Website

Oct 7 2017 - Jan 28 2018

Step onto the streets of New York City and experience one of the greatest collections of early graffiti art in City as Canvas: New York City Graffiti from the 70s & 80s.

Traveling to the IMA galleries from the Museum of the City of New York, City as Canvas features more than 100 works from the Martin Wong Collection and chronicles the origins of graffiti and its evolution from a creative outlet—viewed by many at the time as a public nuisance—to an accepted form of art. With intricate drawings, colorful works on canvas, and photographs of graffiti writing that have long since been erased, this exhibition includes a variety of seminal works by pioneering graffiti artists such as Keith Haring, Lee Quiñones, LADY PINK, and FUTURA 2000.

In spite of the movement’s beginnings on the streets and subways of New York—as well as the city’s attempts to eradicate it—graffiti art quickly proliferated, forever impacting music, fashion, and visual culture. In the decades that followed, graffiti became heralded as an important new form of artistic expression and an international phenomenon.

Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website 

Whether or not you go, the accompanying catalog, City as Canvas: New York City Graffiti From the Martin Wong Collection, offers a visual account of the birth of graffiti and street art, showcasing as-yet-unseen works collected by preeminent artist Martin Wong. Referred to by the New York Times as an artist "whose meticulous visionary realism is among the lasting legacies of New York’s East Village art scene of the 1980s," Martin Wong (1946–1999) was firmly entrenched in the NYC street art world of the late ’70s and ’80s. City as Canvas chronicles the most important chapter in the street art movement and the artists involved. Showcasing Wong’s enormous graffiti art collection, the book contains artwork, photographs, black books, letters, postcards, posters, and flyers made by Wong and his artist friends. The book contains previously unpublished art by famous street artists such as Futura 2000, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Christopher "Daze" Ellis, LA II, Lady Pink, and Keith Haring, to name only a few. City as Canvas traces the origins of urban self-expression and the era of "outlaw" street art in New York, which primed the floodgates for graffiti art to spread worldwide. 

City as Canvas: New York City Graffiti From the Martin Wong Collection

  • Painting
  • American
  • 20th Century
  • Keith Haring
  • Lee Quiñones
  • Futura 2000
  • Andrew (Zephyr) Witten
  • and others

Exhibition Venues & Dates