In 1994, the Museum of the City of New York was given a remarkable resource – the graffiti art collection assembled by the painter Martin Wong throughout the 1980s. This pioneering collection, acquired at a time when graffiti was not highly regarded in the art world, includes more than 300 objects – including some 50 artists’ black books along with more than 100 canvases and over 150 works on paper. Among them are the earliest surviving examples of work by artists who went on to have important gallery careers. Wong, who with Peter Broda had created the short-lived Museum of American Graffiti on Bond Street in the East Village in 1989, was dedicated to preserving the history of this important art movement. When he was diagnosed with AIDS in 1994, he made the decision to donate the entire collection to the Museum of the City of New York. Martin Wong died in 1999 at age 53.
Artists represented in the collection include Futura 2000, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Christopher "Daze" Ellis, LA II, Lady Pink, and Keith Haring. City as Canvas, the first catalog of the collection, will be published in fall, 2013, by the City Museum and Skira Rizzoli; an exhibition of the same title will open at the City Museum in early 2014.