New York City as Canvas: Martin Wong’s Golden-Era Graffiti Collection

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Although it can’t claim to be the birthplace of graffiti, New York City in the 1970s and 1980s saw street art become a movement, made Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring into worldwide art stars, and laid the groundwork for Shepard Fairey and Banksy to become household names.

Martin Wong, an artist who moved to New York in the early days of the graffiti boom, worked at a downtown Manhattan art supply store, and ended up befriending many of the biggest names in the scene. Along the way, he amassed one of the largest private collections of their work, which goes on display to the public this week at The Museum of the City of New York. Below, preview a selection of pieces from the show.

Image courtesy The Museum of the City of New York

Blade, Black Book sketch, 1975

Image courtesy The Museum of the City College of New York

Lee Quiñones, Howard the Duck, 1988

Image courtesy The Museum of the City of New York

Zephyr, Untitled, 1984

Image courtesy The Museum of the City College of New York

Lady Pink, The Death of Graffiti, 1982

Image courtesy The Museum of the City of New York

Blade, Black Book sketch, 1983

Image courtesy The Museum of the City College of New York

Various artists, Wicked Gary’s tag collection, 1970