Murals Disappearing in Harlem
As a graffiti writer the fleeting existence of your work is something you have to accept. Whether it’s removed by the notorious Buff Man, painted over, or just faded and weathered by the elements, it is unlikely that anything will last forever. it’s just part of the game. Muralists on the other hand might have a different expectation for the longevity of their work.
For more than 30 years Franco Gaskin, more commonly known as Franco the Great, has been decorating the metal gates of storefronts on 125th Street in Harlem with his magnificent murals. Through his art Franco has become somewhat of a celebrity. He has been invited to paint murals in countries all over the world, and has been featured in a number of books, newspapers and magazines- most recently in the New York Times. At one time, Franco estimates that he had around 200 murals running along 125th, but unfortunately most have been lost over time due to business turnover, misguided vandals or removal by the owners, so that today only 25 murals remain.
As someone who has helped shape the neighborhood of Harlem for the past 35 years it is just as disappointing to see these murals disappear as it is to see a classic tag thrown up by an old head long since retired finally buffed or gone over. Efforts are being made to preserve the remaining 25 murals but their future is still uncertain. As artists who face a similar struggle with the existence of their work I encourage you to Lobby on the behalf of Franco the Great before all his pieces are replaced by dreary gates and monotonous corporate signage.
Text: Grassy Knowles
Source: The New York Times
Photos: Franco Gaskin