Made in New York: how modern and contemporary culture was shaped in one city

In New York in the 1970s and early 80s there took place a cultural explosion of unique impact – a big bang whose repercussions are still felt today.

In the Bronx, in the early to mid-70s, Clive and Cindy Campbell’s ‘Back to School Jams’ were becoming incredibly popular amongst neighbourhood teenagers. At these parties, Clive (better known as DJ Kool Herc) would play the instrumental ‘breaks’ of funk and soul records whilst talking over the top and encouraging ‘break’ dancing – here was the genesis of Hip Hop.

Meanwhile in Manhattan, two young DJs, Frankie Knuckles and Larry Levan, were playing disco and soul records to those enjoying themselves at the Continental Baths, a gay sauna in the Upper West Side. This pair’s later incorporation of drum machines and synthesisers would evolve into House Music.

Further south still, in Lower Manhattan, the first-ever Punk scene was then emerging at the CBGB music club, which hosted bands such as Television, the Patti Smith Group, the Ramones, Blondie and Talking Heads.

And, spreading throughout the city via the circulatory subway, it was also at this time that graffiti expanded rapidly from rudimentary scrawls to a spray-paint aesthetic recognised and copied across the entire world. 

Graffiti was then (and is now) usually created illegally by young people from outside the established art scene. The now-famous ‘Wild Style’ graffiti crew, for example, was started as a Bronx street gang by the homeless Michael Tracy, AKA ‘Tracy 168’.

Image above © Tracy 168

Some artists, however, managed to move between the illicit graffiti scene and the established New York art world.

Influenced by Tracy 168 amongst many others, Keith Haring’s earliest notable works were created on blank advertising boards within subway stations. An eventual close friend of Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat first became known as part of the graffiti duo, ‘SAMO’.

In 1981, both Haring and Basquiat were included in a show at MOMA PS1 entitled New York/New Wave.  This show exhibited work by the new ‘graffitists’ alongside that by established artists including Andy Warhol.

In the following years until his death in 1987, Warhol developed close relationships with both Haring and Basquiat. The three artists regularly socialised with one another, and collaborated frequently on projects.

During these final years of his life, much of Warhol’s output featured the two younger artists. The New Portrait from 1984 is a screenprinted poster based on the artist’s Polaroid photographs of Basquiat. In 1985, along with Roy Lichtenstein and Yoko Ono, all three artists collaborated on the screenprinted poster, Rain Dance. Both Basquiat and Haring feature in Warhol’s series of stitched photographs completed in 1986.

There was huge mutual respect and appreciation between these two generations of artists. Basquiat and Haring idolised Warhol, who in turn was inspired by these young men and their enthusiastic, refreshing approach.

Andy Warhol Warhol / Basqiuat Paintings 1985/99
Andy Warhol Rain Dance 1985 © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. Licensed by DACS, London 2023

Pop Meets Pop: Part 1

Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran grew close to Andy Warhol in the 80s, spending much time with him whenever they were both in New York. During this time, Andy Warhol’s artistic output was as prolific as ever, as he was inspired by an emerging generation of artists and performers such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Debbie Harry, Grace Jones, and Rhodes himself. Watch part two of this series on our youtube channel.

By Will Snow, Marketing Officer, 8 May 2019