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New MoMA exhibit travels back to the edgy, artsy East Village of the ’80s

Written by
Howard Halle

Are you the type who romanticizes the gritty New York of the ’80s, mainly because you weren’t alive back then? Rejoice! This Halloween, MoMA has a special treat for you. Starting October 31, the museum is mounting a retrospective look at the East Village scene from back in the day. Opening tomorrow and featuring period posters, photos videos and artworks, “Club 57: Film, Performance and Art in the East Village, 1978–1983” centers on the eponymous dive on St Marks Place that became an epicenter of downtown mishegas during the late ’70s and early ’80s.

Artists such as Keith Haring, Kenny Scarf and Jean-Michel Basquait, as well as performers such as Ann Magnuson and John Sex, combined a DIY sensibility with a hey-kids-let’s-put-on-a-show attitude to create misfit events like "Monster Movie Club" and "Name That Noise: A Punk Rock Game Show.” It was a time when the rent was low, the crime rate was high and anything seemed possible. You can check out images from the show below.

Katy K and John Sex in the window of Fiorucci, 1982
Photograph: April Palmieri
Kenny Scharf, Untitled #6 (Speed), 1979
Photograph: Courtesy the artist and Honor Fraser Gallery, Los Angeles
John Sex, Acts of Live Art, 1980
Photograph: The Museum of Modern Art, New York
Flyer for International Rap Night at Club 57, 1981
Photograph: The Museum of Modern Art, New York

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