American Masters

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Meet Keith Haring's art dealer, famous for defacing Picasso

Once Keith Haring's work started to create a buzz in the art world, he needed to find an art dealer to help him. He chose Tony Shafrazi, a big personality who was infamous for defacing Picasso's "Guernica" at the Museum of Modern Art. "He believed in protest against war and was committed enough to stand up to what he knew would be incredible attacks from the art world. I respected that."

AIRED: December 04, 2020 | 0:02:48
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TRANSCRIPT

(old school pop music)

- [Keith] A few days or a few weeks,

right after the Town Square Show.

I just started drawing these new flying saucers.

(old school pop music)

And these animal figures

which sort of looked like they could have been cows

or sheep or something

but they had very sort of square noses.

(old school pop music)

They're really roughly roughly roughly drawn

'cause I hadn't done

anything figure too in a really long time.

And out of these were sort of really

born the entire vocabulary that came afterwards.

(old school pop music)

And all of a sudden, it just totally dawned on me, like

what am I doing in school?

And I had discovered my own work.

So I decided I was gonna have a show.

- The solo show in New York City at P.S. 122.

I went over there and I think Keith was there on his own.

And it was absolutely spellbinding.

I mean, it was really your, you know,

chills went down your spine.

- [Keith] I'd been given this space

only for I think a one month period.

- It became a buzz and everybody wanted to go

and see what it was that you know.

Everybody wanted to go see it.

- And I think that was around the time

when Keith brought Tony to see this work.

- [Interviewer] How's that?

- Too tight, I can't turn.

- [Interviewer] I'll move round more.

- More here.

Yeah, there's nothing.

- You know, Tony is a very forceful personality.

- I've done shows with Picasso, Bacon, everybody,

and I'm like they're like a dead dead rat.

I know my crap, please.

I know the editors of Vogue.

I know there, every f#*##*##*# photographer

there is in the world.

- This is the guy that literally went into the Museum

of Modern Art with a spray paint can,

and painted, "Kill Lies All",

on the most famous Picasso in the world.

- [TV Interviewer] Why did you mark up

that painting like that?

- To tell the truth.

- [TV Interviewer] To tell the truth?

- [Tony] Yes. - [TV Interviewer] What does

that mean?

- Easy here, to kill all the myths, the myths of art.

To tell the truth.

- Everyone's like, Oh, he's the guy.

He's the guy who defaced Guernica.

And he's an art dealer.

- [Keith] I would go to museum art,

just primarily to look at Guernica.

However, the fact that he believed

in protest against war and was committed enough to stand

up to what he knew would be incredible attacks

from the art world.

I respected that.

- We went to see the Keith Haring show

and the animated line was so original

and so active that immediately caught your attention.

It didn't look schooled trained.

It didn't look qualified.

So I grabbed that.

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