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Scenes from the Brooklyn Museum’s Aperture Reception for Flat 54: Night Magic on March 11, 2020. Photograph by Timothy O’Connell for W Magazine.
If you’ve anytime been to a absolutely absurd nightclub, you apperceive the feeling: that altered blitz of adrenaline and bliss you get aback an alarming attendant grants you access into addition dimension, area music becomes mother nature, and amusement is our absolute pursuit. There’s an absolute balladry to an able ball floor, area sounds about-face the atmosphere like the weather, and dancers circle in aflame lights. As addition on an abiding adventure for affect afterwards dark, I access all but accustomed up on award it at a registered abode in New York. And while I’ve developed to access that I’ll never feel that sparkling blitz at places like 1OAK or Elsewhere, I did acquisition it this week—at, of all places, the Brooklyn Museum.
“Boogie Nights” was announcement as I absolved into the Museum’s aperture affair for its “Studio 54: Night Magic” exhibition, which considers the artful appulse of the best acclaimed club in the city’s history (and, arguably, of all time). In what is about a abrupt lobby, applique streamers rained gold assimilate a ball attic abounding with annoyance queens and art aficionados. Performers Rollerbladed about costumed drag walkers, as attendees shimmied with glasses of champagne. The official dress cipher for this event? “Fabulous.” Bodies in rainbow, sequined pantsuits, and white feathered capes danced with blithesome abandon. The anniversary far exceeded the few expectations I had for a affair during a pandemic, aback allure and fun are amid the aboriginal depleted resources.
The bright guests adequate their “Last Dance” with Donna Summer didn’t yet apperceive that this would additionally serve as a activity abroad party. The Brooklyn Building appear its coronavirus-related cease beneath than 48 hours later, on the day that “Studio 54: Night Magic” was set to open. While its reopening date is uncertain, the adorning appearance will absolutely bang a ambit aback it’s aback on view. The all-embracing exhibition is a accolade to the art of dancing through acute consequences, which feels added accordant than ever.
Studio 54 aboriginal opened in 1977, acknowledgment to the accumulated eyes and appetite of two friends: Steve Rubell, who anesthetized abroad in 1989, and Ian Schrager, who is now conceivably best accepted as a hotelier. Calm they acquired a acreage on West 54th artery that had lived accomplished lives as an opera abode and a CBS television studio. With the advice of an aggressive aggregation of creatives, they adapted the amplitude into a discotheque in beneath six weeks. Rubell and Schrager did aggregate in their ability to accouter the altered assets of the venue, and in accomplishing so, engineered a clubbing acquaintance that was activated by ball and stagecraft. The exhibition argument reads: “The animating aggregate of high-end autogenous design, the aboriginal amphitheater architecture, and changing, advanced sets, lighting, and complete created a sophisticated, generally hasty ambiance that had never afore been accomplished in a New York nightclub.” With advice from Tony Award–winning lighting designers, Rubell and Schrager angry a date into a ball attic that fabricated anybody feel like a star.
The accurate atmosphere encouraged a ability of performance, experimentation, and unapologetic debauchery. In its 33-month run, Flat 54 became a world-famous celebrity hot spot, accepted for its akin aperture policy, anomalous inclusivity, and annihilation goes access to drugs and sex. It boasts a antic account of acclaimed assemblage that includes Cher, Salvador Dalí, Calvin Klein, Al Pacino, and Truman Capote. Thanks, in part, to an affectionate accord with tabloids and the press, the club’s celebrated acceptability holds up decades later. Afresh again, Flat 54 was the being of legend, from Day One. The appalling case of tax artifice that landed Rubell and Schrager in bastille and affected the area to bang its doors in 1980 seems to access been pardoned in our absolute memory. Mention Flat 54 to addition on the artery and they’ll added than acceptable allocution about disco, cocaine, or Andy Warhol—all of which helped defended Flat 54’s role as a cornerstone of the 1970s cultural landscape.
The Brooklyn Building babysitter Matthew Yokobosky fabricated absurd efforts to re-create the “night magic” that came to ascertain Flat 54. “I had never apparent an exhibition done about one bistro before,” Yokobosky said. “So, the big catechism for me was, How do you accompany a faculty of abode into a museum? How do you accord a arcade the faculty of a nightclub?” The exhibition’s black atmosphere is added by the Brooklyn Museum’s own booty on active lighting, and a disco soundtrack that changes in anniversary gallery.
It took Yokobosky two years and over 100 interviews to access the 650 altered altar on display. The archival appearance includes around every medium: photography, fashion, drawing, film, set proposals and architectural designs, and more. In accepting catered to a predominately aesthetic clientele, the traceable repercussions of Flat 54—in ethos, aesthetic, sound, and architectonics feel endless.
Visitors can apprehend affluence of drool-worthy Flat 54 ephemera, like invitations, covering analysis tags, logo mock-ups, and bedfellow lists. Amid the added acclaimed artifacts: a array of alcohol tickets that Rubell gave to Warhol for his birthday, Pat Cleveland’s aboriginal clubbing clothes, and a 62-carat azure that Elizabeth Taylor already sported at the venue. Other highlights accommodate the artful byproducts of Flat 54’s agog biologic culture, which is immortalized in Richard Bernstein’s poppers wallpaper and the club’s iconic moon and beanery set piece. The exhibition’s bank argument explains the adumbration in comically apathetic language: “Several times a night at Flat 54, a moon and a beanery would fly in alone from the larboard and appropriate wings and accommodated centermost stage. The beanery would afresh blink and a band of lights would zip up the moon’s nose, apropos to the use of cocaine.”
The appearance addresses the club’s predecessors and its afterlife in adroit ways. The access to the exhibit, which is advised to mirror the absolute access of Flat 54, leads to a aphotic allowance that’s committed to the beforehand history of New York nightlife. Here, there’s an absorbing accumulating of 20th-century glass- and apparatus (think martini shakers from the ’20s). Toward the end of the show, accouterment displays beleaguer a bogus ball floor. Flat 54–related designs from the ’70s angle beside avant-garde interpretations by designers like Rick Owens, illustrating the club’s constant appliance in fashion.
While there are a brace of advance acts who boss the show, like Warhol, Fiorucci, Grace Jones, Bianca Jagger, and Liza Minnelli, there’s additionally amplitude appointed for the club’s unsung heroes, like its bartenders and DJs. Yokobosky succeeds in answer that Flat 54 itself was a assignment of art, if not a masterpiece, fabricated accessible by the contributions of many.
“Studio 54: Night Magic” is a abstruse brainwork on the amount of fun, and shows that “unserious” endeavors can conductor in absolute social, cultural, and banking change. Flat 54 played a cogent role in rebranding New York afterwards an bread-and-butter depression; it brought action and positivity aback to a about broke city, afterward years of beef and upheaval. Afterwards the agony of the Vietnam War, it offered New Yorkers a area for artistic, sexual, and concrete expression, and provided amplitude for bodies of assorted walks of activity to appear calm in celebration. Truman Capote already batten of the club on The David Susskind Show: “[Studio 54] is aggregate the way it care to be. It’s actual democratic. It’s all kinds of colors. All kinds of sizes. Boys and boys together. Girls and girls together. Girls and boys together. Poor people. Rich people. Taxi drivers. Annihilation you want.” As accessible as it is to abolish gluttonous pursuits, the Brooklyn Building shows aloof how far a little beam can go. The exhibition’s closes with a adduce from Liza Minnelli: “Studio 54 brought a allure aback to New York that we haven’t apparent back the ’60s—it fabricated New York get dressed up again.”
“Studio 54: Night Magic” was originally appointed to be on appearance from March 13 to July 5. The Brooklyn Building is bankrupt until added notice. We will amend this column as new advice becomes available.
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