Famous sororities have offered artists the perfect stage to design fantasy environments, says Chris Hall
Caligula throwing “states parties ” ,” was how the funk musician Rick James described the famous Studio 54 in New York, which opened in 1977. There was a cocaine snort” Man and the Spoon” peculiarity that would condescend from the ceiling when required, there are still mounds of cash in the back chamber, unisex bathrooms and stunts like Bianca Jagger riding a pony on the dancefloor is presided over by a naked boy covered in gold glitter.
The key thing about Studio 54, which is available in a new exhibition about world sorority culture at Vitra Design Museum, was its adaptability. It could become a different imagination environment to act as backdrop for the outrageous outfits and theatre of the party goers- such as when four tonnes of glitter were lowered from the club’s ceiling on New Year’s Eve or when the fashion designer Valentino had a circus-themed birthday party with sand and mermaids on trapezes.
” The 60 s and 70 s witnessed the increase of the idea that you don’t design a nightclub, you drawing the minimal design constituents to make a nightclub ,” says Catharine Rossi, a layout historian at Kingston University, who has co-curated the exhibition.” What’s important is not the physical seat- truly the nightclub is just a container. Clubs are made through illuminating and sound, psychotropic medicines and parties .”
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