Peel Slowly and See: Four thousand graffiti stickers that you’d pass on the street become a hotel mural that demands lingering. By Steven Kurutz / Published Aug 2, 2009, NY Magazine.
Starting in the early nineties, Michael Anderson, a Bronx-born artist, began to amass what has come to be regarded—unofficially, and mostly by Anderson himself—as the world’s largest collection of graffiti stickers. Such a claim implies a consuming passion, but Anderson says he was never very dedicated. All he did was carry a Leatherman tool, and whenever he was out in the city he’d peel a few stickers off a wall or lamppost and slip them in a notebook. If he found one that was cool but hard to remove, he’d let the elements work on it and return later. If it was damaged or gone by then, so be it.
The collection now numbers at least 40,000—a testament to the sheer number of graffiti stickers, which are so ubiquitous in New York as to be nearly invisible, the visual equivalent of a honking taxi horn. For years, they sat quietly in notebooks in the artist’s Upper West Side apartment. Last April, the owners of the new Ace Hotel at 29th and Broadway came calling with a mural commission. Completed last month, it’s most likely the only museum devoted to this extremely ephemeral form.
Consisting of 4,000 or so stickers scanned from Anderson’s notebooks, printed in black-and-white on silk paper, and assembled into a dense collage, the mural evokes both the Giuliani years and a grittier, preboom downtown. “I think of myself more like the curator rather than the artist,” Anderson says, standing in the Ace lobby. As a curator and collector, he took an egalitarian approach: The mural contains stickers by well-known graffiti-ers like Barry McGee (who tagged as Twist) and Steve Powers (ESPO), as well as those of the unknown and untalented.
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