Just the name—Studio 54!—conjures images of disco lights, sequined miniskirts, drugs, Donald Trump rubbing elbows with Andy Warhol, and plenty of other debauchery packed into the 33 months, from April 1977 to February 1980, that the New York City nightclub was open.
For those of us who missed out on those heady years, the Brooklyn Museum has announced the forthcoming show “Studio 54: Night Magic,” the first exhibition to showcase the nightclub as a hallmark of the rapidly changing cultural life of New York City.
The show describes Studio 54 as emerging from the shadow of the Vietnam War, just as the Civil Rights, LGBTQ+, and women’s rights movements were gaining momentum, giving rise to the need for a place of liberated minds and bodies. It was in this landscape that Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell dreamed up the club, installed it in a former opera house in Midtown, and dropped the record needle.
Schrager and Rubell were ultimately stripped of their glittering status when they were charged with tax evasion (though Barack Obama did grant Schrager a presidential pardon in 2017) and the club was shuttered.
The show, organized by the Brooklyn Museum’s senior curator of fashion and material culture Matthew Yokobosky, will tell the story of the epic rise and rapid fall of the club by displaying some 650 objects spanning fashion, photography, drawings, film, and music.
The exhibition design draws inspiration from the club’s original lighting and ambience, and will showcase blueprints and building plans that illustrate how Schrager and Rubell ultimately ushered in a new model for high-end hospitality. Other highlights include more than 50 costume sketches by contributor Antonio Lopez, ephemera salvaged by members of the original club staff, and unrealized set designs that haven’t been seen in decades.