Gallery Guide NYC: Exploring New York Art of the 1980s

5th December 2023 4 minutes read

Many people know New York as the cultural capital of the world, and this is 100% true. The artistic works in NYC are an integral and inextricable part of the city’s identity, and its art and culture are intertwined. Paintings, statues, sculptures, live theater, and graffiti are all city staples.

Collectors and interior designers can spruce up their collections with high-quality New York pieces. Read on for a quick gallery guide to NYC and its art scene so you know how you can integrate these cultural staples into your design scheme.

Graffiti Art

New York is a city commonly associated with contemporary culture. People from all walks of life use tools and resources across the city to express themselves and make a mark on the world. That’s why it comes as no surprise that NYC is itself a canvas that people have been using for decades.

Graffiti art became a noticeable staple of New York’s ambiance in the early 1970s. It initially took the form of unauthorized vandalism. Graffiti artists like TAKI 183 and Tracy 168 began to create artwork on walls and subway cars.

Others in the city then became enchanted with the idea of leaving their mark on the world around them. Artists like Zephyr, Lady Pink, and DONDI are still widely remembered for graffiti tags as they began to grow in size and frequency.

The city initially declared a “war on graffiti” in 1972, but it eventually became a cultural staple. Today, city officials and artistic sponsors actually dedicate resources to empowering this subculture to create graffiti-style murals on buildings and on vehicles like subways and buses.

Jean-Michel Basquiat

The prevalence of NYC’s graffiti culture should mean it’s no surprise that some prolific artists initially got their name in the game as street art enthusiasts. 

Basquiat and his friend Al Diaz formed a graffiti duo called SAMO. Together, they wrote interesting, eclectic epigrams across the Lower East Side of Manhattan. This was an especially important location for graffiti artists because it was the hub of hip-hop music culture, and street art was a common form of self-expression for rap enthusiasts.

By 1980, he was receiving commissions to showcase his graffiti-style paintings across the New York art scene. He was part of the Times Square Show and eventually sold his first painting in 1981. This painting, called Cadillac Moon, showed repetitive words and phrases as well as childlike multi-panel graphics.

This style was widely beloved and became part of his eventual skyrocket to success. Though he passed away in 1988, his work is still widely appreciated in both physical and online galleries.

Keith Haring

Keith Haring was yet another artist who operated at the core of New York’s art scene. He attended the Ivy School of Professional Art in Pittsburgh for two semesters before dropping out to focus on his own personal projects. This paid off, and he had the chance to exhibit his work at the Pittsburgh Arts and Crafts Center in 1978 right before moving to New York.

In NYC, he joined the alternative art scene alongside Basquiat. The two became friends and participated in exhibitions and performances together at alternative galleries and venues.

Over time, Haring’s work was a staple in 100 exhibitions. Some were group exhibitions, but others exclusively featured his work. Some common themes in his work were birth, love, sex, and death, which caused them to resonate with a lot of people.

His death in 1990 of AIDS-related complications was tragic. He was only 31 years old. However, his artistic influence is still alive today, and people are still immortalizing him in galleries and exhibitions.

Sax Berlin: New York Art in Your Interior Design

Sax Berlin is one of the most prolific NYC artists alive today.

He draws a lot of influence from both Basquiat and Haring, using the same bold lines and childlike shapes. He aims to provide a sense of timeless whimsy to a wide variety of pieces. High-contrast hues and simple but iconic shapes showcase images including skulls, humans, and abstract symbols.

Berlin is arguably the best exponent of 21st-century Classicism. He has a wide range of designs and is widely credited with 10 distinct artistic styles. Whether you’re looking to decorate with medieval themes, Renaissance inspiration, or contemporary figurative designs, there’s a Berlin painting that you are sure to love.

Berlin’s paintings make great centerpieces for rooms in any luxury home. Commercial gallery owners and private collectors alike can showcase these beautiful styles in quality frames that make their hues stand out. Create balance by making Berlin art the main event of your collection or design scheme and base other, less intricate designs around their color palettes.

The aim should be to make your Berlin artwork stand out.

This doesn’t just connect you with one modern New York art legend. It also connects you to the 1980s New York art scene via his sources of inspiration.

On the Corner. Sheridan Square. 1983
On The Corner Sheridan Square. Sax Berlin 1980

The Current Art Renaissance in NYC

Buying original NYC art has never been a better idea than it is today. Street art is making a massive comeback, and many NYC neighborhoods are making themselves known as graffiti districts. Bushwich, the Lower East Side, and Harlem are proud to get in touch with their roots this way.

It’s also being widely recognized as a legitimate form of self-expression today. The Museum of the City of New York showcases street art, as do other smaller institutions.

As people become more enchanted with street art, they become more interested in preserving its legacy. Dedicated street art tours and vibrant galleries immortalize this art form, and now you can carry it in your private collection as well in the form of Sax Berlin paintings and those of other eclectic artists.

Beyond Our Gallery Guide to NYC Artwork

Now that you have a complete gallery guide to NYC, it’s time to begin sprucing up your home, hotel, or commercial space with high-end interior design. White Court Art is committed to providing etchings, paintings, figurative art, and more to designers who want to create a comfortable and eclectic artistic ambiance in any space.

Our mission is to help art collectors and gallery owners make a name for themselves and appreciate decades worth of art that has brought people together. Browse our collections to find the perfect piece to match your specific tastes.

Richard Veal