This list brings together a selection of group and solo exhibitions that shaped the post-graffiti moment, from 1979 to 1985. It focuses on Jean-Michel Basquiat and the artists featured in “Writing the Future” with whom he regularly exhibited. Compiled by Liz Munsell, Lorraine and Alan Bressler Curator of Contemporary Art, and Dakota DeVos, former curatorial research fellow.
November 30–December 1979
The Fabulous Five: Calligraffiti di Frederick Brathwaite, Lee George Quiñones
Galleria La Medusa, Rome
Participating artists: Fab 5 Freddy, Lee Quiñones
After reading a “Scenes” column in the Village Voice featuring a conversation with Fab 5 Freddy, the Italian gallerist Claudio Bruni Sakraischik invited Fab 5 and Lee to present their paintings in his Rome gallery, marking the first international exhibition of post-graffiti art. In the show’s catalogue, Bruni asserted: “In New York there are some people who want to rub out the spray graffiti without realizing that this is the purest form of American popular visual art of the late ’70s and…pictorial expression of the new black generation.”
The Times Square Show
Times Square, Midtown Manhattan
Participating artists: Charlie Ahearn, John Ahearn, Eszter Balint, SAMO© (Jean-Michel Basquiat), Jane Dickson, Stefan Eins, Fab 5 Freddy, Nan Goldin, David Hammons, Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer, Lee Quiñones, Joe Lewis, Jack Smith, Kiki Smith, and about one hundred others
The artist collective Colab took over an abandoned bus depot and massage parlor to host this massive display of work in a range of media and styles. The inclusive, landmark exhibition announced a generation of young artists whose work was connected more with diverse communities across the city than with the elite of its art galleries. Basquiat was singled out in an Art in America review by Jeffrey Deitch, who called his works “a knockout combination of de Kooning and subway spray-paint scribbles.”
September 30–October 11, 1980
New Painting: The Third Phase
White Columns, Downtown Manhattan
Participating artists: Fab 5 Freddy, Lee Quiñones
For Fab 5 and Lee’s first gallery exhibition in the United States, they created a collaborative, site-specific mural that entirely covered the walls of this alternative art space.
October 18, 1980 (opening)
GAS (Graffiti Art Success for America)
Fashion Moda, South Bronx
Participating artists: Crash, Daze, Fab 5 Freddy, John Fekner, Futura, Lady Pink, KEL 139th, NOC 167, Lee Quiñones, Zephyr, and others
Produced by the graffiti artist Crash (Johnny Matos), this exhibition was the first of numerous shows at the artist-run space to focus on artists associated with graffiti—some of whom were from the surrounding neighborhood. Fashion Moda also commissioned murals throughout the South Bronx, connecting the streets and community with the gallery.
December 13, 1980–January 8, 1981
Events: Fashion Moda
New Museum, Manhattan, and Fashion Moda, South Bronx
Participating artists: John Ahearn, Robert Colescott, Jane Dickson, John Fekner, Futura, Keith Haring, Lady Pink, Joe Lewis, Lee Quiñones, Rammellzee, Judy Rifka, Christy Rupp, and about 25 others
Fashion Moda organized the premiere installation of the New Museum’s “Events” exhibition series, which ran through 1983 and invited three artist-run organizations to each curate a show in the museum’s galleries. This exhibition presented works in a plurality of styles from artists of varying cultural, socioeconomic, and educational backgrounds, and was likely the first to place works by post-graffiti artists in a New York City museum setting. Fashion Moda staged a concurrent exhibition at its South Bronx location.
February 15–April 5, 1981
New York/New Wave
P.S. 1, Long Island City
Participating artists: SAMO© (Jean-Michel Basquiat), William S. Burroughs, David Byrne, Henry Chalfant, Martha Cooper, Crash, Dondi, Fab 5 Freddy, Futura, Nan Goldin, Keith Haring, Robert Mapplethorpe, Lee Quiñones, Kenny Scharf, Andy Warhol, and more than one hundred others
Curated by Diego Cortez, this legendary, immense, and hugely popular exhibition brought together avant-garde, distinct artistic trends to express the DIY attitude that defined this generation. The writer and participating artist Glenn O’Brien described his fellow exhibitors as “a coalition of punks, No Wave musicians, young painters, graffiti artists, poets, performers, and more radical-type forefathers.” Basquiat’s works were prominently displayed in a large installation of works on canvas. He also exhibited two new paintings in spray paint on sheet metal among works by artists associated with graffiti, which were commissioned for the exhibition with funds for materials donated by Claes Oldenburg.
Mudd Club, Tribeca, Manhattan
Participating artists: Charlie Ahearn, SAMO© (Jean-Michel Basquiat), Henry Chalfant, Martha Cooper, Crash, Daze, Dondi, Fab 5 Freddy, Futura, Keith Haring, Iggy Pop, Lady Pink, Phase II, Quik, Lee Quiñones, Rammellzee, Kenny Scharf, John Sex, Tseng Kwong Chi, Zephyr, and others
An important moment of cross-pollination between the downtown art and clubbing scenes and the hip-hop artists and musicians of the outer boroughs, “Beyond Words” was curated by Fab 5 Freddy and Futura. The well-attended show presented “graffiti- based, -rooted, -inspired works” by nearly 30 artists. The opening night, a hip-hop event, was Afrika Bambaataa’s first DJ appearance in lower Manhattan.
May 23, 1981 (opening)
Galleria d’Arte Emilio Mazzoli, Modena, Italy
After encountering Basquiat’s work at P.S. 1, gallerist Emilio Mazzoli invited him to make his international debut with his first solo exhibition. Basquiat presented paintings inspired by the streets of New York City.
Fun Gallery opened in the East Village. In its first season, it presented solo exhibitions of Fab 5 Freddy, Futura, and Lee Quiñones, among others.
Fashion Moda, South Bronx
Participating artists: A-One, Kool Koor, and Toxic
The artists, members of Rammellzee’s crew of Tag Master Killers, created a futuristic environment for their paintings in the gallery, which was just down the street from the Mitchel Houses development where they came up.
March 6–April 1, 1982
Annina Nosei Gallery, Soho
Basquiat’s first New York solo exhibition featured important early works and was a critical success.
April 8–May 8, 1982
Jean-Michel Basquiat: Paintings
Larry Gagosian, Los Angeles
Basquiat’s first West Coast solo exhibition.
June 19–September 28, 1982
Kassel, West Germany
Participating artists: A-One, Joseph Beuys, Keith Haring, Claes Oldenburg, Tom Otterness, Judy Rifka, Kiki Smith, Toxic, and nearly forty others in the Fashion Moda store; Jean-Michel Basquiat, Joseph Beuys, Francesco Clemente, Isa Genzken, Keith Haring, On Kawara, Barbara Kruger, Lee Quiñones, Gerhard Richter, Martha Rosler, Cy Twombly, Andy Warhol, and 170 others as individual artists
The seventh quinquennial international exhibition, curated by Rudi Fuchs, sought to highlight art as a medium for social change. Basquiat and Lee were the youngest of 182 artists from around the world. Jenny Holzer and Stephan Eins presented the Fashion Moda store, a conceptual artwork and pop-up shop, which sold “small sculpture, posters, knick-knacks, and fashion items,” ranging in price from 50 cents to 200 dollars, by Fashion Moda artist alumni and community members as well as prominent internationally known artists.
October 12–November 6, 1982
Barbara Gladstone Gallery, Midtown Manhattan
Lee moved from Fun Gallery uptown to stage this solo exhibition.
November 4, 1982 (opening)
Fun Gallery, East Village
Following successful solo exhibitions of Futura, Lee Quiñones, Fab 5 Freddy, Dondi, Kenny Scharf, and others, Fun Gallery inaugurated a new, larger space with a solo exhibition of Basquiat’s latest paintings. Many were created on cross-bar stretchers that extend from each corner of the canvas, giving the work a makeshift sculptural presence.
January 15–February 19, 1983
Tony Shafrazi Gallery, Soho
Participating artists: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Futura, Keith Haring and LA2, John Ahearn, Donald Baechler, James Brown, Ronnie Curone, Brett DePalma, Tom Otterness, Kenny Scharf, and Zadik Zadikian
Shafrazi’s group exhibition was intended to announce the arrival of a new generation of artists. According to his exhibition catalogue essay, this all-male cast of artists “[drew] upon the whole of history as freely as they use the stimuli of urban references. As a result, they have at their disposal the most varied cultural sources available at any one moment.” The exhibition traveled to the Contemporary Art Center of Cleveland in February.
February 12–March 3, 1983
Rammellzee: A Special Event, Gothic Futurism, Ikonoklast Panzerism
Annina Nosei Gallery, Soho
Participating artists: Jean-Michel Basquiat and Rammellzee
Billed as two solo shows in conjoining galleries, this presentation exhibited Basquiat’s first print series, Anatomy, adjacent to paintings and drawings of intergalactic scenes by Rammellzee, who created a live performance for the opening.
March 15–May 29, 1983
1983 Biennial Exhibition
Whitney Museum of American Art, Manhattan
Participating artists: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer, Barbara Kruger, David Salle, Cindy Sherman, and others
Like past biennials, this exhibition aimed to present “the most vital work made within the previous two years by living American artists.” In contrast to the previous edition, the curators noted that this display was dominated by “a resurgent interest in figurative, often expressionistic, painting and sculpture.”
April 14, 1983 (opening)
Jean-Michel Basquiat / Rammellzee and A-One: Gothic Futurism Sign Overtures Ikonoklast Panzerism
Private residence of Paige Powell, Upper West Side, Manhattan
Participating artists: A-One, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Crash, Daze, Kool Koor, Lady Pink, and Rammellzee
Organized by Interview magazine’s Paige Powell, this exhibition featured several important works by Basquiat, including Mitchell Crew (1982), alongside works by Rammellzee and A-One. Somewhat at the last minute, Crash, Daze, Lady Pink, and Kool Koor also joined the show, which was attended by important collectors of post-graffiti art. Basquiat himself purchased a Lady Pink portrait of an outsized nude female figure.
Graffiti, Thanks a Lot!
Fun Gallery, East Village
Gallery cofounder Patti Astor staged an open call for artwork, resulting in the display of more than 500 pieces by everyone from established post-graffiti artists to teenage “writers.”
May 12–June 4, 1983
Jenny Holzer: Survival Series with A-One, Mike Glier, and Lady Pink
Lisson Gallery, London
The artist Jenny Holzer showed text-based works made in her characteristically collaborative fashion. Holzer supplied the text that was painted atop Lady Pink’s and A-One’s images by Ilona Granet, performance artist and sign painter.
June 2, 1983
Post-Graffiti Art Symposium
New York Society for Ethical Culture, Upper West Side
Critics, dealers, and collectors attended this one-day event organized by the post-graffiti art collector and advocate Dolores Neumann. It included a ten-minute mural-making demonstration by Keith Haring, Kool Koor, Lady Pink, and others.
October 22–December 4, 1983
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam
January 14–February 26, 1984: Groninger Museum, Groningen
Participating artists: Blade, Dondi, Seen, Zephyr, Futura, Crash, Quik, NOC 167, Lee Quiñones, and Rammellzee
An important critical voice on post-graffiti, the writer Edit DeAk noted in the exhibition’s catalogue that New York City’s incessant campaign against graffiti on the subways necessitated the embrace of this art on canvas—a form that travels “distances no train can travel.”
November 5–December 1, 1983
Jenny Holzer: Survival Series
Barbara Gladstone Gallery, Soho
Two large paintings from Holzer and Lady Pink’s series made their New York debut, representing an important statement on collaboration between different actors in the New York art world.
December 1–31, 1983
Sidney Janis Gallery, Upper East Side, Manhattan
Participating artists: A-One, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Bear, Marc Brasz, Crane, Crash, Daze, Futura 2000, Keith Haring, The Arbitrator Koor (Kool Koor), Lady Pink, Don Leicht, NOC 167, Lee Quiñones, Rammellzee, Kenny Scharf, and Toxic
Sidney Janis invited the collector Dolores Neumann to organize an exhibition following her symposium on post-graffiti in June. The works’ appearance in a gallery that served the upper echelons of the city gave them a new level of recognition and collectability, as Janis’s statement in the exhibition catalogue asserted: “Today, [the graffiti artist’s] painting, no longer transitory or ephemeral, joins the tradition of contemporary art and is recognized as an existing valid movement.”
Arte di Frontiera: New York Graffiti
Galleria Communale d’Arte Moderna, Bologna
Participating artists: John Ahearn, A-One, Donald Baechler, Jean-Michel Basquiat, James Brown, Crash, Ronnie Cutrone, Daze, Dondi, ERO, Fab 5 Freddy, Futura, Richard Hambleton, Keith Haring, Jenny Holzer & Lady Pink, Kool Koor, Justen Ladda, NOC 167, Lee Quiñones, Rammellzee, Kenny Scharf, Toxic, and Zephyr
This project, originated by Francesca Alinovi, a young Italian art critic, was staged posthumously following her murder by domestic violence. Alinovi had engaged with Fashion Moda and many of these artists during visits to New York in 1981. She conducted invaluable interviews, featured in the exhibition catalogue, with many artists while she was in New York and during the artists’ own travels in Europe in 1982.
April 5–June 2, 1984
Classical American Graffiti Writers and High Graffiti Artists
Galerie Thomas, Munich
Participating artists: A-One, Bear, Chuck (Kool Koor), Daze, Dondi, Futura, Lady Pink, NOC 167, Quik, Lee Quiñones, Rammellzee, Seen, Toxic, and Zephyr
This exhibition’s catalogue essay notes that while “New York has spent millions of dollars to wash away the signs…the time has come that America will spend millions of dollars again to acquire documentation and works of graffiti to be displayed in museums.”
May 4–26, 1984
Mary Boone, Soho
Basquiat’s first of two solo exhibitions with the prominent gallerist Mary Boone marked an important development in his career as an increasingly recognized artist and public figure. He exhibited nine new paintings, including his major work Grazing/Soup to Nut (1983).
May 19–June 6, 1984
New York Graffiti Writers 1972–1984
Gallozzi-La Placa Gallery, Tribeca
Participating artists: ERO, Rammellzee, and others
This group exhibition featured several of the artists Gallozzi-La Placa had supported individually.
August 11–September 23, 1984
Jean-Michel Basquiat: Paintings 1981–1984
Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh
December 14, 1984–January 27, 1985: Institute of Contemporary Art, London
February 9–March 31, 1985: Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam
Organized by the curator Mark Francis, this was Basquiat’s first solo museum show.
October 7–November 10, 1984
Rapid Enamel: The Art of Graffiti
The Renaissance Society at The University of Chicago
Participating artists: A-One, Blade, Henry Chalfant, Daze, Duster, Futura, Kool Koor, Lady Pink, Phase 2, Quik, Lee Quiñones, Rammellzee, Kenny Scharf, Toxic, and UGA (United Graffiti Artists)
The curator Richard Flood introduced a generation of New York graffiti artists to audiences in Chicago. In the exhibition catalogue, he observed that art associated with graffiti “is an act of renegade self-assertion that has grown into a visible movement which has been given aggressive cultural credibility in Europe…but rather timorously avoided at home.”
October 12–December 2, 1984
The East Village Scene
Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania
Participating artists: Jean-Michel Basquiat, Gretchen Bender, Mike Bidlo, Fab 5 Freddy, John Fekner, Futura, Richard Hambleton, Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, David Wojnarowicz, and others
Curated by Janet Kardon, with catalogue essays by Carlo McCormick and Irving Sandler, this exhibition asserted that “the work shown in the art galleries and night clubs in the East Village in New York City is sufficiently notable to be examined in a museum context.”
January 15–March 15, 1985
Jean-Michel Basquiat / Matrix 80
University Art Museum, Berkeley, California
May 4–June 16, 1985: La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego
Berkeley was host to Basquiat’s first US solo exhibition at a museum, and the only one mounted during his lifetime. Part of an ongoing series of contemporary art exhibitions, this modest university museum show featured Basquiat’s major painting Untitled (Skull), 1982, and five other works loaned by West Coast collectors.