Famous fraternities 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 famed Studio 54 in New York, which opened in 1977. There was a cocaine snort” Man and the Spoon” aspect that they are able to condescend from the ceiling when required, there were pilings of cash in the back room, unisex bathrooms and stunts like Bianca Jagger riding a pony on the dancefloor led by a naked humanity covered in gold glitter.
The key thing about Studio 54, which features in a new show about world-wide guild culture at Vitra Design Museum, was its adaptability. It could become a different fantasy environment to act as backdrop for the outrageous clothings and theatre of the party goers- such as when four tonnes of glitter were drooped 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 identified the rise of the idea that you don’t design a nightclub, you raising the negligible designing parts to make a nightclub ,” says Catharine Rossi, a design historian at Kingston University, who has co-curated the exhibition.” What’s important is not the physical seat- certainly the nightclub is just a container. Clubs are made through illuminating and sound, psychotropic medicines and parties .”
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