ForeverMissed
Although we are incredibly appreciative of the offers of food and flowers, we would love to direct you to two causes dear to Jim's heart:
Graffiti for Good: https://www.graffitiforgood.org/donate
Goodwill of San Francisco: https://sfgoodwill.org/donate/


Jim was born in New York City on October 29, 1927. After graduating high school in a swift three years and being awarded the Westinghouse Science Honorable Mention Award, Jim moved to Cambridge to attend M.I.T. His high school sweetheart and future wife of 72 years, Arline, attended nearby Radcliffe/Harvard College. Jim loved the life and family they built together – 4 children, 11 grandchildren, and 8 great-grandchildren.

At M.I.T., Jim was an outstanding track star who earned Medals in arenas like the Boston Garden and Madison Square Garden; he received M.I.T.’s special “Straight T” as the team’s highest point scorer. In 1975 he was included in a listing of 250 outstanding M.I.T graduates.

After college, Jim started playing Squash. Without any formal training, he won 7 National Squash Tennis Championships, was ranked third nationally in 40’s doubles, runner-up in Canadian Nationals doubles, and he served as President of the National Squash Tennis Association.

Jim started his business career with Shawmut Inc. and quickly climbed the ranks of the corporate ladder with stints at Genesco, Sara Lee, and Levi Strauss. In 1984, at age 57, he decided to retire and in 1989, Arline and Jim moved to Sacramento, California.

Jim is perhaps best known for his work as a photojournalist. He documented archeological sites, natural wonders, political events, and public art. For close to 50 years, he photographed murals worldwide and became known as an urban legend as he tracked the history of graffiti. His photos and writings were seen and heard widely – the Smithsonian, MOCA in Los Angeles, the Tate Gallery to name a few – and his co-authored book, Spraycan Art, sold over 250,000 copies.

In fitting recognition of Jim’s contributions as a photojournalist, Jim recently was selected for inclusion in The Explorers Club 50: Fifty People Changing the World the World Needs to Know About. A fitting honor at the end of a long and storied life.

Jim traveled extensively to lecture on graffiti and to visit the galleries that showed his work. While this work is truly remarkable, nothing compared to meeting Jim in real life, undoubtedly in his woven pattern safari hat, vest, and spray-painted t-shirt. To meet Jim, was to understand the passion behind his work.

Jim was a traveler. One of his fondest memories and most entertaining stories was a three-week trip to East Africa. He and Arline drove themselves through uninhabited, and probably quite dangerous, territories and camped in a two-person tent. He returned to deliver a lecture at the New York City’s famed Explorers Club titled “DO IT YOURSELF SAFARI.” Jim loved the outdoors - camping for years with the family, boating, snorkeling, waterskiing, and winter skiing.

Philanthropy, international peace, and social justice were central to Jim and Arline’s values. Together, they traveled to peace conferences in Beijing, Puerto Alegre, Brazil, and Prague to name a few and in 2003, he was recognized for his commitment to social change with a Dolores Huerta Award.

Jim’s professional accomplishments, while extraordinary, pale in comparison to the love we feel towards him. We are eternally grateful for the 93 wonderful years Jim had and the time we got to spend with him.

Goodbye, adios, see you later, until next time – these all seem wrong. Perhaps because Jim ended every email the same way…

Paz.
Posted by Steve Grody on May 7, 2021
Jim was always "in the mix" as a supporter of artists and as someone interested in how they express themselves in the world. For that matter, my book came about because of his prompting me do do a book on Los Angeles graffiti. He was always a great friend and mentor. He always had encouraging words and enjoyed staying up on who was coming up in the mural community (graffiti and otherwise) and loved rolling around to different active spots in L.A. where I had the privilege of driving him in recent years. He will be sorely missed.
Posted by Jane Weissman on May 7, 2021
In 1984, Eva Cockcroft — founder of Artmakers Inc. in NYC — attended a talk by Jim about the murals in San Francisco’s Balmy Alley. The talk not only inspired Eva’s visit to the murals which opposed US interventions in Central America along with a celebration of its people’s cultures, but also Eva’s bringing together 34 artists to create the 26-mural cycle "La Lucha Continua The Struggle Continues" in Manhattan’s East Village that addressed six issues of community, national and international concern. The talk also initiated a years-long friendship and many lively and provocative gatherings over a meal in Eva’s loft — evenings that several Artmakers artists remembered with pleasure when learning of Jim’s passing. So many of the murals created in the early years of the national community murals movement are long gone, and we are forever grateful to Jim for his recognition of their importance and his wide-ranging travels to document them, thus preserving their memory. Artmakers cherishes our memories of him and extends our condolences to the entire Prigoff family. 
Posted by Annemarie Clark on May 5, 2021
A magnificent smile that will be greatly missed. Volunteering at Sudha's Treasures I looked forward to that smile. Jim brought so much joy, spirit and laughter to each event. I am so glad to have been able to spend time with him.
Posted by James Weil on May 3, 2021
Condolences and kind thoughts to Jim's family and friends. I enjoyed Jim's company and conversations at Explorers Club meetings in San Francisco. We told stories of life at MIT, and shared opinions about public art. I will remember him as thoughtful, respectful and happy. 
Posted by Donna Markell on May 2, 2021
To the Prigoff Family,
As former New Rochelle neighbors, sending condolences to you all. May James’s memory serve as a blessing.
Posted by Brett Cook on May 1, 2021
In the summer of 1988 in San Diego I went to see a lecture by Jim Prigoff, famed American photographer, author, and lecturer focusing on public murals, graffiti, and spraycan art. Near the end of the lecture he showed an image of a recent piece I had done in Oakland, and I officially lost my mind. I had certifiably “Made it” as a graff writer – since Jim had recently authored of Spray Can Art – and that day began a friendship of 30+ years. 
While the salutes surfaced from across the Graffitti Interwebs upon his passing, his Walls of Heritage Walls of Pride: Afro American Murals book he did with Robin Dunitz is as significant to history as any of the many books he made personally and championed privately. He was my introduction to many of the legends of community arts and the illustrious bay area muralists community of the 80’s and early 90’s. I rode on more than a couple voracious photographing missions with him from San Francisco to the Bronx as he was committed to documenting everything! He bugged me and bugged me to paint him, and after many years of hees and haws, I relented – to produce the only portrait I have ever made by request, a deserving tribute after his years of advocacy .
I have an email from him from last week that I had yet to respond, it was a shift from his usual political analysis to a pdf. advertising the release of some of his iconic images. Maybe a foreshadowing of his transition as his images were notoriously held close? (Though he started sharing some of them to certain graff heads in the last couple of years.) My last photo of him is just before SIP, at his desk at his home in Sacramento, still hustling and making connections for Graffiti around the world deep into his ninetieth decade of life. Goodbye “Diego” stay up. 
Posted by Michael Caplan on May 1, 2021
Condolences to the family. May his memory be a blessing.
Louise and I met Jim and Arlene when we became neighbors in 2000.
As we got to know our new neighbors we were impressed with their devotion to one another and to the energy they expended on Social Justice issues globally. As time passed and we got to know the Prigoffs better, we heard stories of what I would describe as a adventurous life, well lived.
The multifaceted couple would capture our attention for hours.
After Arlene passed, our time with Jim became even more personal. His presence in our lives will be sorely missed.
Jim was a BIGGER THAN LIFE PERSONALITY.
What a pleasure to have known both Arlene and Jim. It's comforting to know they're together again.
Posted by Annice Jacoby on April 30, 2021
It is hard to imagine the world of public art without Jim Prigoff present, as a force of advocacy, enthusiasms and resourceful energy. He was a major contributor as a writer, photographer and friend to many artists. Jim had an avuncular manner that was pro-active , protective and provocative. He understood the perception and politics, the creative drive and the personality of the artwork He was generous and indefatigable cultural worker from his first works documenting Spray Can Art to comprehensive book on the Black arts movement. Because he traveled he could connect artists and movements in different places and saw the movement grow from hyperlocal to global. Deepest sympathy to Jim's family and friends for the loss of such an original and dedicated person, inspired by a sophisticated sense of art and politics and the rich friendships he created that expanded the community of creativity. L'chaim for Jim's great joie de vivre. Bravo for all he has contributed and the many people he has touched.
Posted by vincent chin on April 29, 2021
I also met Jim Prigoff at the University Club.. His locker was at the south corner and mine was at the north corner. We played squash doubles against each other and was fun. I had never expected that I had played against such a distinguished and accomplished person. I will miss him
Posted by Soumya Aravind Sitaraman on April 29, 2021
It was 1987 and I was 17 when Uncle Jim and I zigzagged through the streets of San Francisco. I found myself looking at what no other new-comer tourist would see of a city and it's people. Large paintings, and intricate graffiti on walls, fences, alley doors and bridges. It was my first and lasting introduction to spray can art and the alternative voices of the street that Uncle Jim became so involved with over the years. He was a man who smiled a lot, figured things out but kept his own counsel unless asked, and worked with a passion on the social issues that society grappled with. He supported the underdog, and when it was my turn, the underdog was the "at-home-mom." I will never forget that he drove 2+ hours from Sacramento to Santa Clara to attend the Las Madres art exhibition that I had organised at the Triton Museum of Art to highlight the hidden talents and voices of at-home moms. Uncle Jim is a man who forged his own quiet path, not too concerned about what others thought of it, and he was his own harshest critic. He changed the world view and added perspective in many minds. I will always fondly remember him and pray for peace. As he always signed off, PAZ.
Posted by Helene Burgess on April 28, 2021
We will forever be grateful for Jim’s friendship, generosity and work on behalf of social justice. He and Arline helped to make this world a better place.
Posted by Usha Krishnaswamy on April 28, 2021
When I think of Jim, I see him with a big smile and a cheery greeting, and that is his image will stay with me. When he come home visiting with Sudha and Ed, and had heard that I, Sudha's sister had arrived from India, he came over. He took us to so many little nooks and corners of San Fransisco with murals and a new world opened up to me. I had never heard of before, and I saw the art, and why the artist painted it, and later on, who the artists were, in several other countries as well.
When he visited me in India, we travelled by road, he discovered with so many paddy fields, that rice was the staple in the South. Just for that, he began eating rice with us. He had visited all the seas and oceans he went to, and so we took him to our Elliots beach in Chennai. He just wore shorts and when he came out of the water, we found the sea of people looking at him as if he were god emerging out of nowhere. He, on the other hand, found it curious that all of us come to the beach fully dressed, which we still do.
He was king, generous, gregarious, and I will miss dear Jim..
Om Shanthi.
Posted by Brett Webb on April 27, 2021
I met Jim around 1995. It was a huge moment, for me. He had reached out and wanted to meet the other person behind Art Crimes. For someone that had done so much for graffiti, murals and public art, in general, to come to my place and talk about documenting and ask a lot of questions about what was happening, meant a lot! He gave me a photo of a Jonone piece from San Francisco to publish and it's a photo I've always cherished. What a character and what a guy.

Many of us owe a huge debt of gratitude to Jim for the work he put in promoting and sharing with others that didn't know how to connect with the graffiti world.
Posted by Victor Ochoa on April 27, 2021
I met Jim in the early 80's ... at the hight of the graffiti movement here in San Diego... he stimulated me to start two of the permission yards WRITERZBLOK AND BATTLEGROUNDZ ... he gave us many slide shows and presentations... I got to put his collection of SD in the UCSB multicultural archives ... he help me contact Bill Ralston when I coordinated a mural in Belfast, I loved having dinner with him ... he cooked his steaks super rare!! he always kept me in-touch with things specially after my cross-country exploits in public art, he gave me and my daughter Xochitl a amazing tour of the Bay Area and even though his feet were hurting him, he was the most activated ninety year old I have ever known, in regards to his progressive views we always had our backs ... I always agreed with his perspectives. he was very aware of the chicano art movement and knew many of us throughout the country and Latin America. bless you DIEGO. 
Posted by Justin Wyner on April 26, 2021
I am Arline’s 1st cousin from Boston. I actually knew her before Jim did even though I think they knew each other from grammar school. Jim and I worked together fir many years. I ran the manufacturing as he ran the sales. We have stayed in touch over the years and it was only last month that he shared his new pages in the Explorers Club. He was very proud of them. My late wife, Genevieve, who also came from New Rochelle, followed Jim’s career with great interest. My last recollection of him in person was when he came to Boston some years ago to give a lecture in Cambridge. He got up before the group and stripped off his more formal shirt to show his surprisingly muscled bare chest before putting on a more expressive t shirt in which he have his lecture. He was so very proud of his family when he spoke of them to me. He will be missed.

Posted by Keith Christensen on April 26, 2021
I'm saddened to learn of Jim's passing. I remember well meeting with Jim and Eva Cockcroft for multiple public art projects that he photographed. Always a kindly, passionate force. Thanks Jim for sharing your gifts.
Posted by Owen O'Donnell on April 26, 2021
I met Jim at the University Club's squash courts and played with him many times. His squash career was long and very distinguished. He was much more than a squash player to me. We became friends off the court and I was continually impressed by his intelligence and the scope of his interests. His enthusiasm for photographing graffiti and other spray can art was infectious. I will miss conversations with him and his emails. He enlightened my life and he will be missed.
Posted by Sudha Pennathur on April 26, 2021
Jim was intimately involved in our lives. Ed and I travelled to countries far and wide with him – up the Amazon, Peru, Barcelona, Italy, Ireland, Mexico and India. A consummate explorer, he delighted in discovery, and we hunted for murals around the world. During the early 80’s he was a Division President of Levi Strauss & Co. and I was fortunate to work as his GMM. When I started my own company later, he served as Chair of my Board Directors offering invaluable guidance for over 35 years. During this time , for 18 of those years, he untiringly volunteered at the Sudha’s Benefit charity Sale, counseling, taking photographs and helping Craig behind the cash counter. He became a champion of all the causes in which I was involved . I will continue to practice, in life and in business, all the important lessons he has taught me. Charity should have been his middle name and giving back was his principle in life.
Posted by Edwina White on April 26, 2021
Since Jim & Arlene came to Sacramento, it seemed they were at every peace & justice event. Jim's presentation of international murals, then graffiti art, was icing on the cake -- so to speak. Thanks to the family for sharing more facts of his full and generous life.
Posted by Bill Rolston on April 26, 2021
In the early 1990s I had already been photographing the murals in the North of Ireland for a decade and wanted to see up close what was happening in the world of murals elsewhere. I wrote to a few people in California whom I had read about as muralists or mural photographers. The first to respond was Jim. He arranged for me to give a couple of lectures in San Francisco and spent many hours bringing me and my partner Anna on a 'mural safari'. He visited us in Ireland in 1994 and again in 2006. In the meantime I had met him at a mural conference in Philadelphia. In 2006 his visit to Belfast coincided with the 25th anniversary of the prison hunger strike where 10 republican prisoners had died. There was a huge parade with hundreds of former political prisoners dressed in blankets as they had done to avoid wearing a prison uniform. Jim was genuinely overwhelmed by what he witnessed. Our last meeting was in 2018 when we went on another 'mural safari' in San Francisco and Oakland. I then stayed with him for a few days in Sacramento. Like Jim, I am a mural archivist rather than a muralist so there were many things we shared almost intuitively. I have never had the global range, scope, contacts or recognition that he had, but as a kind of mini-Jim could easily share his enthusiasm for the 'mural hunt', especially if the outcome was a photograph of a mural you had never seen before.
So, slán, Jim - rest in peace.
Posted by Lee Lidstone on April 26, 2021
As I think about my life, almost everything is directly connected to my incredible grandparents, Grandpa Jim and Grandma Arline. Ever since I can remember and before that, they would come to visit us growing up in Canada. I travelled to places like New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Hawaii, Cancun, and the Soviet Union, because of them. My grandparents took me clothes shopping before the first day of school, took us to museums and science centers, gave us books on all sorts of topics, brought us to Martin Luther King celebrations, sent me to university in San Diego, made sure I had braces (and later Stacey too), and encouraged me to learn Spanish. These are just a few of the countless ways Grandpa Jim and Grandma Arline changed my life forever. Grandpa Jim, I will miss you forever. You will always live in my heart. I looked to you for all the guidance and good advice - you were always for me. Stacey and I love you very much!
Posted by John Schram on April 25, 2021
In 1982 I took Jim to Hiroshama- he wanted to see it and understand the ramifications . Tough trip for both of us as I was leaving Levi and he was taking over as my successor. Formed a bond that went above professional relationship and think we both held each other in high regard. We caught up recently when he made a presentation at the DeYoung in San Francisco .
John Schram
Posted by John Weber on April 25, 2021
I must have met Jim in the late 70's.  He would appear in Chicago fairly regularly for the next few years, to photograph murals. When he later became enchanted with Graf artists, we saw less of him, but Jim always stayed in touch. His photography was impeccable and his color vivid. His use of the photos was always conscientious, honest, never exploitative. He always put the art in the foreground and credited the artists scrupulously. Jim played a major role in promoting the professionalism of Graf artists especially. He met each with good spirits and loyal honesty.  We artists, both community muralists and spraycan artists, repayed his terrific promotion of our art with both great respect and love. Jim was unique. A talent, an intellect, a man with unlimited capacity for friendship. We will not see his like again. I feel I was blessed to know him, even a bit. John Weber
Posted by Leslie Legg on April 25, 2021
Helen and I first met Jim many years ago in Cancun at Dos Playas. We were new condo owners at the time and Jim helped us with the ins and outs of transacting in Mexico and in particular the 'workings' of the condo association.

In the following years we had many great conversations with Jim around murals and a common interest - sailing.

He was missed in the Dos Playas ownership community but we remained in touch.

We thought a great deal of Jim and always respected Jim for his truthfulness and sincerity. He was brilliant in his field and lived life to the fullest.

With our deepest sympathies and heart felt condolences.

Helen and Les Legg
Posted by BETTY REUBEN on April 25, 2021
I am so sorry to learn of Jim's passing . I have looked forrward each week to the interesting funny articles he would send me. My recent friendship wit im was fidlled with meaning as he related his adventures and the places he and arlene had  traveled to and   most importantly his remarkable committment to social justice. i will miss him Myconcolemces to his family Betty Reuben
Posted by Blanca Alicia Salinas Gon... on April 25, 2021
Dearest Jim, May God grant you eternal peace after this lovely long journey of a well lived life. Your exemplary optimism and impecable attitude as a devoted husband, generous friend, infatigable explorer and a great human being leaves us a legacy of what a good life should be like. Thank you for your friendship, I am honored by it. 
Posted by WARREN P VONBLUM on April 25, 2021
And what a magnificent, well lived life! For me, it was a supreme pleasure to have known and worked with Jim for many, many decades. And I will hold him up to my generations of UCLA students in their search for meaningful lives devoted to the never-ending pursuit of social justice. Paul Von Blum
Posted by Linda Wishnick Markowitz on April 25, 2021
I am amazed you have my email. I remember Jim so well. He and Arline gave my Dad Jack Wishnick competition for the "life of the party". It's been many years since I have seen them but memories of the New Rochelle crowd (as my mother called them )are strong . Condolences to those who mourn . Another light in the world has gone out.
Posted by Frank Steam156 Malt on April 25, 2021
A wonderful man who always believed in me when others never. A great friend who I will deeply miss ,
Posted by Robert Schmieder on April 25, 2021
Jim and I were close friends for more than 30 years, as members of the Explorers Club, fans of the art that Jim presented through his scholarship, and as political critics. We regularly saw each other at meetings, and more often talked on the phone and by email (last time 2 weeks ago). Jim was a constant source of information and delight, and I had the highest respect for his mastery of the subject of urban art, which he taught us was not just about graphitti but more about expression. In the late 1990s he took my wife and me around San Francisco on a tour of significant public art sites, and from then forward I have been a proud "Mural Team Member" (he had many of these!). But the most endearing aspect of our friendship was his cheerful, generous, optimistic demeanor, and the belief we would be friends forever. I'm sure now that that will be the case. Thank you, Jim, for your presence in my life. Hail, and farewell. --Bob
Posted by Lars Skouboe on April 25, 2021
Dear Prigoff family.
First and foremost my deepest condolences for your loss. May he rest in peace.

I made a small comment about having read Spraycan Art on the morning he passed away, and you shared that comment in the memorial writing.
Actually I was looking through the book with my kids (5 and 7 years old), talking about all the colours, the funny and beautyfull people and much more.
I guess I'm just writing to let you know that his work still inspire kids (and us grownups )around the world.
Thank you for the pics. Forever an inspiration. Rest in peace.

Lars Skouboe, Denmark.

Posted by Philip Prigoff on April 24, 2021
One of my favorite movies is a Tim Burton film called Big Fish. In it, a dying father has his son over to recant some of his tallest tales. His son has heard all of them at nauseam, never believing for a second that his father could have lived such an interesting life. In the end, at his fathers funeral, all the characters his father told about showed. Every story, no matter how tall or big, was true.
I feel in part this is how I look at my grandfather Jim Prigoff. Growing up I would hear the great tales of a man who traveled the globe numerous times, taking pictures in remote locations and meeting the strangest characters. He seemed larger than life, and in some ways was. With the passing of this great man, I have seen an immense amount of support for his work from people all across the world. World famous artists, hip hop legends and so many others showing their support for my grandfather. So many have been sharing pictures of him when he was in his infancy stages of documenting graffiti art and doing what he loved.
The tall tales he would spin have now become legend, and in turn, this larger than life figure has become a legend himself. Thanks for the stories Grandpa Jim, I will be sure to pass them to my son to continue the adventure.
Posted by Jake Prigoff on April 24, 2021
When I was a kid, we would go snorkeling in Mexico and have drinks on the beach - I'd get a virgin strawberry daiquiri and he'd get a margarita. He would always get some margarita salt in that brown mustache - not an ounce of gray even at 90+ years old.

As time went on, I started to realize what a brilliant man he was. He always knew the best things to get at Tacolote, or fun card games and wild life. What I didn't appreciate until later was his thorough understanding of politics, finance, social justice, biotechnology, and of course art. A real expert and so humble.

When I was a little kid, Grandpa Jim would come to New York and drive us around the city to see murals.
A good driver? Far from it.
A great tour guide? The best.

He inspired my love of street art - like he did for hundreds if not thousands of others. It was just 3 weeks ago I sent him a bunch of pictures from around my apartment in NYC. A canvas here, a photo he took there, a spray can on my shelf, and a copy of Spraycan Art front and center on my coffee table. I'll treasure these forever. And I'll treasure the memories.

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Recent Tributes
Posted by Steve Grody on May 7, 2021
Jim was always "in the mix" as a supporter of artists and as someone interested in how they express themselves in the world. For that matter, my book came about because of his prompting me do do a book on Los Angeles graffiti. He was always a great friend and mentor. He always had encouraging words and enjoyed staying up on who was coming up in the mural community (graffiti and otherwise) and loved rolling around to different active spots in L.A. where I had the privilege of driving him in recent years. He will be sorely missed.
Posted by Jane Weissman on May 7, 2021
In 1984, Eva Cockcroft — founder of Artmakers Inc. in NYC — attended a talk by Jim about the murals in San Francisco’s Balmy Alley. The talk not only inspired Eva’s visit to the murals which opposed US interventions in Central America along with a celebration of its people’s cultures, but also Eva’s bringing together 34 artists to create the 26-mural cycle "La Lucha Continua The Struggle Continues" in Manhattan’s East Village that addressed six issues of community, national and international concern. The talk also initiated a years-long friendship and many lively and provocative gatherings over a meal in Eva’s loft — evenings that several Artmakers artists remembered with pleasure when learning of Jim’s passing. So many of the murals created in the early years of the national community murals movement are long gone, and we are forever grateful to Jim for his recognition of their importance and his wide-ranging travels to document them, thus preserving their memory. Artmakers cherishes our memories of him and extends our condolences to the entire Prigoff family. 
Posted by Annemarie Clark on May 5, 2021
A magnificent smile that will be greatly missed. Volunteering at Sudha's Treasures I looked forward to that smile. Jim brought so much joy, spirit and laughter to each event. I am so glad to have been able to spend time with him.
his Life

Early life

Prigoff was born in New York City, and graduated high school in 1944 at age 16, was an Honorable Mention Westinghouse Science Talent Search Winner, and was accepted at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He was an honor student all eight terms and an outstanding athlete in Track and Field. He received a "STRAIGHT T", the school’s highest athletic award. Graduating MIT in 1947, Prigoff moved into the business world and also took up squash, achieving many National rankings. He was National Champion of Squash Tennis seven times in the 1960s. Prigoff was elected to the Explorer's Club in New York City in 1967. In 1975 his name was included in a listing of 250 outstanding graduates of M.I.T. In the late 1970s, he worked with Mark Rogovin and Marjorie Benton, founders of the Peace Museum in Chicago and was an original Board Member for many years.

Corporate Career

In 1947 Prigoff was employed in the factories of Shawmut Inc. in Stoughton, Massachusetts. He moved into sales in New York City, and later become President of his division, which was sold to Genesco. He was employed by Genesco for two years before being recruited as Executive Vice-President of Rosenau Bros. in Philadelphia. In 1970, he was recruited to be President of the Sportco Division of US Industries, and in 1975, he was recruited to become Senior Vice President of the Sara Lee Corporation in Chicago. At both USI and Sara Lee, his challenge was to restore profitability to companies purchased by conglomerates that had little experience in the businesses they had purchased. After five successful years with Sara Lee, Prigoff was recruited to join Levi Strauss in San Francisco as President of one of their divisions. The task was the same: To bring profitability and stability to a division that had grown too fast. After three years with Levi’s, Prigoff retired in 1984 at the age of 57.

Historian, author, photography career

In the early 1970s, Prigoff became interested in documenting public murals. He was intrigued by the community nature of the murals, their artistic merit, and their ability to address issues that were not normally found in newspapers, television, and other media. He travelled extensively amassing one of the largest documentations of this art form photographed by a single individual. Along the way, he could not help but notice the appearance of graffiti in New York City and Philadelphia. He began to document that as well.

Prigoff noted the emergence of subway graffiti appearing "above ground", and was interested to see how it had spread across the country, and eventually worldwide. He wrote to his friend Henry Chalfant and suggested that Henry join Prigoff in tracking the art form around the world. Together they produced Spraycan Art,[1] published in 1987. The book sold well over 250,000 copies and is now considered one of the seminal books in the study of modern-day graffiti. Many graffiti writers learned about the art form from reading Spraycan Art, and initially perfected their skills by studying styles found in the book.

Prigoff later co-authored two books on traditional mural art with Robin Dunitz: Painting the Towns – Murals of California,[2] and Walls of Heritage – Walls of Pride – History of African American Murals.[3]

Prigoff has written forewords and assisted in the publication of several books on the subject of graffiti art.[4] He also has written articles for many publications,[5] and his photographs appear in numerous publications and catalogues.[6] Of note, The History of American Graffiti features 48 of Prigoff’s photos including its frontispiece.[7]

In 2011, Jeffrey Deitch, Director at the Geffen LAMOCA, curated the ground breaking and record attendance show, "ART IN THE STREETS" with the help of Roger Gastman and Aaron Rose. Prigoff was one of a few photographers included in the show alongside the eminent graffiti artists. Many of his photographs appeared in the catalogue.[8]

In April 2012, the Estria Foundation honored Prigoff, along with Judy Baca and Kent Twitchell, with the award of "Urban Legend"[9] Estria was quoted as saying "James is considered one of the major forces in giving dignity and credibility to an art form that once was considered to be vandalism".

Over the years Prigoff has exhibited his photographs in many cities and has lectured around the world on the topic of public murals, graffiti, and spraycan art. He has also donated thousands of his photographs to historic archives.

Recent stories

Jim

Shared by Abdul Premji on April 26, 2021
April 26th, 2021

I’ve known Jim since 1981 when I worked for him for a short time at Levi’s. In the intervening 40 years I met up with him on several occasions (too few in hindsight) and he introduced me to the magic and beauty of street art. During one of those occasions he presented me with his SprayCan Art book and I was hooked. I was amazed at what he had achieved by recording the street art around the world and bringing it to people like myself who were completely unfamiliar with this art form. My most vivid recollection of Jim occurred in the past year during the middle of the Covid pandemic when Jim offered to take me around Oakland and view and record the BLM street art after the murder of George Floyd. I was amazed that a 93 year old man, driving himself was able to conduct a tour of the Oakland street with such eloquence, knowledge, energy and passion. I was exhausted by the time we ended up at my place for lunch but Jim, like the energizer bunny kept on going and continued to regale us with stories of his world travel, adventures of recording the street art and his immense joy in being alive and engaging with people of all ages. Jim was particularly affectionate towards my wife Massey and she was touched by his attention and his magnanimity. Subsequent to the June 2020 tour of the Oakland Jim offered to show us the street art in Sacramento and I along with a friend, Bill Demarest descended on him in Sacramento and he indulged us with the art scene in Sacramento. He was particularly fond of the Johnny Cash mural on a side of a building in downtown Sacramento and pointed out the intricate details of the mural. Whether it was a premonition on my part or not Bill and I visited Jim on March 10th of this year and he once again took us to see the art we had missed during our previous visit. Alas that was the last time I saw Jim and he was as usual his gregarious, generous and gracious self and we parted with the knowledge that we were privileged to have known him and engaged with him. I will miss you Paz and wherever you are in the celestial heavens I know you are regaling the universe with your stories and the people you left behind.

Rest In Peace my friend, Rest In Peace.

Abdul

By Laura Stein

Shared by laura stein on April 25, 2021
I meet Jim on a chat from Richard Russell we became friendly and I loved his wisdom When I went to S.F we would meet for lunch and he would always tell me wonderful stories and the love of his family Jim was a gentleman always
Laura

An amazing friend

Shared by Frank Steam156 Malt on April 25, 2021
Around 1986 I wrote to Thames and Hudson book pubishers in London asking them if they would kindly put me in touch with Jim. I never for one minute thought I would hear from him but I was amazed when he kindly wrote to me back then. For about three years before the internet we traded around 130 letters sending each other various info about walls and trading photos etc. Around 1990 I decided to go visit Jim in Sanfrancisco and he kindly took me around the city to photograph the graffiti and meet various artists. It was an amazing trip thanks to Jim looking after me.

In later years Jim came to the UK and stayed with me and my Nan on various occasions and I returned the favor and showed him around the UK to photograph walls and meet various artists. I remember on one occasion Jim renting a top of the range BMW to drive us around in. I must say Jims driving in the UK was a bit scary he could not get use to round abouts or level crossings here in the UK. He always said to me wait until you come back to Sanfrancisco and I will show you what a great driver I am. So on one of my trips to Sanfrancisco he took me down the most crooked street in the world at a fast speed. 

Jim was a wonderful kind lovely man and I will miss him a great deal , He always believed in me and what I was doing and I was so greatfull for the times we shared together.