Franco Gaskin, known in Harlem and around the world as “Franco The Great” and “The Picasso of Harlem,” first moved to Harlem in 1958 from Panama.
After the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr in 1968, he had the idea of turning Harlem storefronts that were outfitted with metal gates to reduce crime into things of beauty.
Gaskin spent the next 35 years beautifying those gates with murals—over 200 to be exact (from the West to the East Side of 125th Street), 125th street is unofficially known as “Franco’s Blvd.”
When asked why he started painting, Gaskin replied, “I did it for love, I did it for beauty, and I did it for 125th Street”
Get the best Harlem news in your inbox here.
He told ArtInFact Mag that “It was like a prison camp,” he said. “The street was a sea of gates — messy and forbidding and covered with gigantic graffiti.”
“All I’ve done in the last 35 years is all for Harlem… it’s been forgotten.”
His work can be seen in Africa, Japan, France, Central America, Canada, Spain and Brasil. Franco welcomes the world, to his creation on steel gates.