Club 57

Ann Magnuson by robert carrithers

Club 57 was a nightclub located at 57 St. Mark’s Place in the East Village, New York City during the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was a hangout and venue for performance- and visual-artists and musicians, including Keith Haring, Klaus Nomi, and to a lesser extent, Jean-Michel Basquiat.

It was started in the basement of the Holy Cross Polish National Church on St. Mark’s. Ann Magnuson, who managed the club and hosted events, described it as home to ‘pointy-toed hipsters, girls in rockabilly petticoats, spandex pants, and thrift-store stiletto heels…suburban refugees who had run away from home to find a new family…who liked the things we liked – Devo, Duchamp, and William S. Burroughs – and (more important) hated the things we hated – disco, Diane von Fürstenberg, and The Waltons.’

She describes a ‘Punk Do-It-Yourself aesthetic’ which inspired events such as: erotic Day-Glo art shows, Putt-Putt Reggae Night, Model World of Glue Night (New York’s hippest built airplane and monster models, burned them, and sniffed the epoxy).They also ran a Monster Movie club on Tuesday nights, ‘they’d show the really worst monster movie that they could find. And everybody would scream and drink and carry on.’

Keith Haring used to perform from inside a fake television set, and read his ‘neo-dada poems’ at the Club 57 Wednesday night poetry readings, and later put on evenings and exhibitions there. He curated the Black Light Show there, an early show of his own works (1981), and an exhibition of Kenny Scharf’s hand customized appliances.

Besides Magnuson’s input, the main contribution to the Club 57 style was from (mostly gay) School of Visual Arts undergraduate students (including Haring), who used it as a playground. ‘At Club 57 there were drugs and promiscuity—it was one big orgy family. Sometimes I’d look around and say, ‘Oh, my God! I’ve had sex with everybody in this room!’ It was just the spirit of the times—and it was before AIDS.’

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