Arts & Entertainment

Studio 54, the discotheque that kept New York’s spirits up

By Helen Cook

New York, Mar 11 (efe-epa).- For 33 months – from April 1977 until it closed in February 1980 – the famous discotheque Studio 54 became the epicenter of glamor and euphoric celebration that managed to save a depressed New York from emotional darkness and exerted a huge influence on world culture and fashion, an achievement that the Brooklyn Museum is emphasizing in its newest exhibition.

“Studio 54: Night Magic” collects more than 650 fashion items, photographs, paintings, cinematographic and other works that underline the revolutionary creativity and freedom of expression that bubbled and boiled at the iconic club, where the celebration of sexual liberation got New York’s streets buzzing, although the city at the time was facing bankruptcy.

“Studio 54 has come to represent the visual height of disco-era America: glamorous people in glamorous fashions, surrounded by gleaming lights and glitter, dancing ‘The Hustle’ in an opera house,” Matthew Yokobosky, the museum’s senior curator of fashion and material culture, said in a statement.

“At a time of economic crisis, Studio 54 helped New York City to rebrand its image, and set the new gold standard for a dynamic night out. Today the nightclub continues to be a model for social revolution, gender fluidity, and sexual freedom,” added Yokobosky, the designer and curator of the exhibition, which traces the aesthetic revolution and social politics of the historic nightspot.

In addition to having to deal with New York’s monumental financial problems, the US was also trying to recover from the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal that led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation and the social struggles around racism and sexual equality.

After the exhibit opens its doors to the public next Friday for a four-month run, attendees will be able to see how the disco figured so strongly in the sexual revolution.

The idea for the exhibition occurred to Yokobosky two years ago when he began noting that many fashion designers had been inspired in developing their fashion lines at the disco.

During the first year, he said, he interviewed more than 100 artists, designers and employees of Studio 54 searching for material for the exhibition, and most of the items and pieces on display come from the private collections of people associated with the nightspot.

The Andy Warhol Museum also collaborated on the exhibition, given that the iconic artist and cultural figure showcased there was one of the celebrities who spent the most time at Studio 54. Also working with the Brooklyn Museum to arrange the exhibition was the Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Paris and the Bulgary Heritage Collection in Rome, which provided a magnificent necklace with a huge sapphire that actress Elizabeth Taylor wore to a party on May 21, 1979.

The Brooklyn Museum has devoted its entire fifth floor to the “Night Magic” exhibition, which is divided into several rooms featuring background music from the era including “Funkytown” by Lipps Inc., “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor, “YMCA” by The Village People and “Le Freak” by the band Chic, which was written after they were refused entry into the club on New Year’s Eve 1977.

In the photos displayed at the exhibition, one can see celebrities and artists such as Tina Turner, fashion photographer Francesco Scavullo, the then-wife of the Canadian prime minister, Margaret Trudeau, and the wife of Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger, Bianca Jagger.

Also to be seen are photos of Liza Minelli, Michael Jackson, Truman Capote, Grace Jones, Diana Ross, Cher, Farrah Fawcett, Dona Summers, Diane von Furstenberg, Calvin Klein, Carolina Herrera, Yves Saint Laurent, Brooke Shields, Mariel Hemingway, Kenzo and Issey Miyake, just some of the celebrities who visited Studio 54 during its heyday.

In addition, there are numerous colorful and daring outfits worn by people who partied at the club, a clear example of the undeniable influence the locale had on global fashion.

“Studio 54: Night Magic” will run from March 13 to July 5.


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