The Rise of Futura 2000

I arrived at the Mudd Club right on time and went upstairs to view the opening of the new Mudd Club Art Gallery. The owner, Steve Maas, had recently taken over the downtown scene by creating the coolest club in town, one that helped focus the merger of CBGB’s crowd with the Soho art scene. My article on Futura 2000 had appeared that morning, my first cover story for the Manhattan edition of the hip new afternoon New York Daily News.

Futura had designed the headline himself and been paid around $100. While Futura was in the art room sketching the piece, a  senior dude looked me in the eye and said: “We shouldn’t be promoting this.” It was my first inkling my reporting might be rubbing some of the old guard the wrong way.

I assumed we’d all be celebrating up a storm at the Mudd Club. Fred Braithwaite greeted me. When I asked if he’d seen the Daily News article, he pulled out a copy of High Times and showed me Glenn O’Brien’s much more in-depth article that ran for pages with lots of amazing color photos. Jean-Michel Basquiat and Fred were the major characters in his piece.

Somewhat deflated, I speed-read the article while thinking, “Shit, this guy beat me to the punch. I need to start reading High Times.”

Meanwhile, I notice a bunch of girls are looking at me funny. “That’s him,” one says. I can tell they are super pissed-off about something, so I ask them what’s up.

“You called our father an alcoholic! Do you know what if was like for him to read that!” snarled one, which cranked up the angry vibes on the rest of them.

I sought refuge behind the desk with Fred and whispered, “Holy shit. I assumed his dad was dead or he wouldn’t have told me.”

“Well,” said Fred, “he told you so he must have wanted it to come out, even subconsciously.”

It was the first time I realized the power of the media to cause intense emotional problems and how the unvarnished truth is not always the best option. The whole incident put a real damper on the celebration for me, and I went home early, although not before Fred gave me Bambaataa’s phone number, so I could interview him the next day. It was the beginning of a long trail I’d scout for the next four years, a trail I’d been put on by viewing a subway car called “Break” that I’d seen at New York/New Wave at P.S. 1, a train painted by Futura 2000. You can read the original Daily News article in my book Hip Hop: The Complete Archives.


0 Replies to “The Rise of Futura 2000”

  1. Is the art world ready for Graffiti? It better be it started 30,000 years ago in a cave in France. The Greeks and Italians did it ( hence the name ) Graffiti literally means to write on the wall.

    I ran with a crew in New York in the early 80’s Keith Haring, Jean Michel Basquiat, Kenny Scharf, Robin Van Arsdol (RV) Alex Locadia, Charles Andrea. Get it right yo. Graffiti has been in the art world for ever.

    Have you been to SoHo NYC or the Wynwood Arts District in Miami? Wake up yo, the Art World is not only ready it is ripe. People paying top dollar. Check it

    1. I don’t think you understand this is an historical article, not something that was written today. Graffiti made two big pushes into the art world in New York, one with the United Graffiti Artists run by Hugo Martinez, and the other, a few years later with the emergence of Basquiat, Lee, Fab Five, Dondi, Zephyr, Futura, etc, all of whom were basically launched by the P.S. One show.

  2. Steven I was living and working in New York in the early 80’s. I hung out with Keith Haring, Jean Michel Basquiat, Kenny Scharf, Robin Van Arsdol (RV) Alex Locadia, Andrea Charles and many other artists that you mentioned in your article. I am almost 50 years old and I am a graduate of Ecole Nationale Supérieuredes Beaux Arts Arts, Paris, France. I have several degrees in European and American Art History / Painting and Sculpture.

    I can tell you for a fact that Graffiti wasn’t launched or started by any gallery or museum and don’t ever say it was because that is incorrect. My friends produced Graffiti in the streets and subways of New York. It existed on its own merit in the streets because the artists made it happen. Like they do today in Wynwood Arts District in Miami. Except now a days the landowners are paying for it to be done. It is no longer considered vandalism. They fly artists in from all over the world and put them up in hotels and pay them to paint. Ask Kenny Scharf you are friends with him on facebook or better yet watch

    In the early 80’s in New York the gallerists and museums saw what the graffiti artists were doing and found a way to show their art works and make money from it. Artists like Andy Warhol and art dealers like Leo Castelli, Ivan Karp, Tony Shafrazi, and Ronald Feldman bought and paid for that privilege by setting artists up in studios and purchasing and encouraging graffiti artists to paint on canvases instead of walls.

    When I met Basquiat he was homeless and living in Thomson’s Square Park in a cardboard box. He was painting on stolen post cards and pieces of wood. Later he used wooden pallets or crates that were abandoned behind buildings in the street and he would find material in dumpsters and stretch it over the crates and paint on them. These artists had no money they were not businessmen or represented by any galleries.

    These artists wore long trench coats so they could steal spray paint from local hardware stores and go out and write on the walls in the subways or on the street. That is the history of graffiti these people were my friends and fellow artists and that’s how we lived in the streets and we painted on the walls and doors and anything we could find in the street. That’s the recent history of graffiti.

    1. Thanks for your input, but if you are so upset about the title of this article written in 1982, you should contact the New York Daily News. They wrote the title on the story not me. Did you even bother to read the eBook before writing the reply? United Graffiti Artists was the first attempt to get New York writers onto canvas and into art galleries. Sam Esses was the second attempt. These are historical facts.

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