The Times Square Show Revisited

posted Sep 5, 2012, 12:28 PM by Eric Fretz   [ updated Sep 7, 2012, 2:50 PM ]

I have not seen the show yet, but mark your calendar for The “Times Square Show Revisited” exhibition at the Hunter College Art Gallery, opening Friday, September 14 and running till December 8, 2012. There will be an opening reception September 13th from 6:00 to 8:00 pm. They say “Times Square Show Revisited is the first focused assessment of the landmark 1980 exhibition organized by the artist group Collaborative Projects, Inc” and they promise “contributions from over 40 artists of the more than 100 originally participating.”

The original 1980 exhibition provided an opportunity for the then unknown and often homeless Jean-Michel Basquiat to experiment with painting.

View of the Times Square Show from 41st Street, 1980. Photo coyright Lisa Kahane

It took place in an abandoned building on Seventh Avenue and 41st Street which used to be a massage parlor. The radical artists collective Colab teamed up with the South Bronx Fashion Moda to put on the show. Keith Haring remambers that “Jean- Michael Basquiat caused a scandal, because one of his pieces was the show's outside signboard — and on it he had printed in very big letters, FREE SEX. The Colab people took it down, because they thought it would get them into trouble.” But Basquiat did have an acrylic and spray paint mural in one room, and SAMO graffiti around. He was still billed as "SAMO," but his full name is listed on the floor plan, below.

The critical attention brought by the exhibition helped Basquiat become a painter. Reviewing the show for Art In America, Jeffery Deitch noted the ''patch of wall painted by SAMO, the omnipresent graffiti sloganeer, was a knockout combination of de Kooning and subway spray paint scribbles.” The Village Voice's Richard Goldstein also noted that "Samo, the graffitist, seems perfectly at home amid the post structural scribbling on these walls," and well known feminist critic Lucy Lippard singled out "SAMO’s critical graffiti" as a high-point in an otherwise critical review in ArtForum

I discuss the Times Square Show, and Basquiat’s participation in it, in Chapter 4 of my Jean-MichelBasquiat: A Biography. More information on that original show can be found in an article by Margo Thompson in Street Notes.

Basquiat is among the artists listed in the "revisited" show at Hunter, along with Charlie and John Ahearn, Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, Tom Otterness, Jenny Holzer, Judy Rifka, Kiki Smith, Rigoberto Torres and others. Lately I’ve been thinking of how appropriate it would be to bring back Christy Rupp’s once ubiquitous rat posters, which as I remember ran all around the original Times Square Show. Let’s hope they have them here, along with some good examples of the other artist’s listed.

Plan of the second floor of the Times Square Show, by Tom Otterness, showing the room where Basquiat's murals were.

Photos by Andrea Callard (usually found at the Downtown collection at Fales library, NYU), which are an excellent documentation of the original show, should also be on display. 

Right now it is just an opening page, but the organizers of the Times Square Show Revisited  promise more information about the current exhibition soon at

Times Square Show Revisited
The Bertha and Karl Leubsdorf Art Gallery / Hunter College
695 Park Avenue, New York (@ E. 68th St.)
September 14 thru December 8, 2012
Gallery Hours: Tuesday thru Saturday, 1-6 pm

[Note: Readers in the New York area may also want to check out the Bronx Museum, where “Bronx Lab: Style Wars” explores the explosion of graffiti art in the late 1970s South Bronx (featuring Rigoberto Torres, Tim Rollins and KOS, Keith Haring and William Borroughs, Valeri Larko, and others till June 2 2013), and the Gil Scott-Heron inspired exhibition “Revolution Not Televised,” features many Cuban artists.]