The murals of artist Richard Haas are stunningly realistic. Since the 1970s, Haas has created hundreds of trompe-l’oeil murals in cities across the world, from Boston to Chicago, and Miami to Munich. Meaning “trick of the eye” in French, Haas’ trompe-l’oeil masterpieces cover multi-story facades of buildings. These large-scale works appear three-dimensional and life-like, depicting scenes and buildings that the viewer feels they can step right into. Right here in New York City, we have five exterior Richard Haas murals to be mesmerized by. Haas has also done stunning interior murals including inside the DeWitt Wallace Periodical Room at the New York Public Library on 42nd Street. He continues to create smaller-scale paintings and drawings. We talked with the Manhattan-based artist and got his thoughts on his work in New York City, read on to discover where you can see them!
1. 112 Prince Street, SoHo
The very first outdoor mural Haas created appeared on the facade of 112 Prince Street in Manhattan’s SoHo Cast Iron Historic District in 1974. The mural depicts a faux cast-iron facade that mirrors the front of the building and its neighbors. It was commissioned by Citywalls, Inc. and the physical painting of the mural was done by a sign-painting company called Van Wagner Outdoor Advertising. Two real windows on the side of the building were worked into the design and he also added a personal touch by adding a black cat in one of the painted windows.
This first mural kickstarted Haas’ career in public art. After this initial piece, he would go on to create hundreds of murals around the globe. In a 1976 New York Times article, architecture critic Ada Lousie Huxtable said that the mural “turned the bleak, dingy brick side of a castiron-fronted landmark building on Prince Street in Manhattan into a trompe l’oeil triumph.” Over the past four decades, however, weather and vandals have taken a toll on the artwork. While the elements have worn away the paint on the upper levels of the five-story mural, graffiti covers the lower levels. In an effort to raise funds to have the mural repainted, Haas started the Prince Street Mural Fund sponsored by CITYarts. If you wish to make a contribution to CITYarts for the Haas mural, please be sure to note that it is for the Prince Street Mural project.
“Like any artist or architect who puts art in a ‘real’ space, one has to accept the temporal nature of such work. I cannot judge if I have been more or less fortunate than others in this endeavor, however, I can say I feel fortunate that in some cases clients, foundations, or agencies have chosen to do high-quality conservation and repainting of some of the murals,” Haas told Untapped New York, “Each one of these works that have not yet been restored is a great challenge, both to me and to the owners. Quality restorations have been done in Boston, Cincinnati, Portland, Oregon, Fort Worth, Texas, and the Con Ed substation.”