Ritu Cipy

Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Fine and Decorative Art and Design

First Advisor

Agnes Berecz

Second Advisor

Morgan Falconer


The 1980s in New York Downtown culture was about rebellion. A vibrant community of young artists had occupied Lower Manhattan; interested in various art forms like painting, music, dance and theatre. The community thrived in an area largely ignored by Ronald Reagan’s presidency. It was an explosion of creativity that has had reverberations ever since. Jean-Michel Basquiat’s and Keith Haring’s art grew out of that zeitgeist. Their art was an uprising against a world that did not support their talent. Their need to enforce a social change prompted them into
using their work as a call to action. Their illegal street art received recognition by a new generation of curators. This marked the transition of street art from city walls and subway trains onto canvas and into the fine art world and made them two of the most successful artists to emerge from the decade. The thesis is an investigation into their artistic practice to understand the impact it had on
the art world of the eighties. It explores the how they each charted their own careers from the late 70s and how they significantly contributed to the art world. From the research the author hopes to highlight the cultural, personal and political influences of their work, the original vision born out of their draughtsmanship, limitations and prospects and the reception of their work among scholars
and major art players.