Famous associations have offered artists the perfect scaffold to design fantasy environments, says Chris Hall
Caligula throwing “states parties ” ,” was how the funk musician Rick James described the legendary Studio 54 in New York, which opened in 1977. There was a cocaine snort” Man and the Spoon” feature that would condescend from the ceiling when necessary, there are still mounds of cash in the back chamber, unisex bathrooms and stunts like Bianca Jagger riding a horse on the dancefloor led by a naked serviceman covered in gold glitter.
The key happening about Studio 54, which features in a new exhibit about world-wide fraternity culture at Vitra Design Museum, was its adaptability. It could become a different fiction environment to act as backdrop for the outrageous dress and theatre of the party goers- such as when four tonnes of glitter were dropped 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 saw the increase of the idea that you don’t design a nightclub, you returning the negligible layout components to make a nightclub ,” says Catharine Rossi, a pattern historian at Kingston University, who has co-curated the exhibition.” What’s important is not the physical room- actually the nightclub is just a container. Clubs are made through lighting and sound, psychotropic stimulants and parties .”
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