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 careers in the arts, fashion, and music industries, including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Christopher "Daze" Ellis, FUTURA 2000, Keith Haring LA II, LADY PINK, and Lee Quiñones. 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.
Beginning February 4, 2014, never-before-seen highlights of this collection will be on view at the Museum of the City of New York as part of the exhibition, City As Canvas: Graffiti Art from the Martin Wong Collection.
The first catalog of the collection, City As Canvas: New York City Graffiti from the Martin Wong Collection was published in fall, 2013 and is available in the Museum Shop.