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See what the East Village looked like in the 1980s

This video evokes a gritty but beautiful East Village with a vibrant community of artists.

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver

A German artist has provided a rare glimpse into the 1980s East Village art scene with a video of photographs he took while working in New York City.

Andreas Sterzing, who now lives and works in the U.K., had been based in the East Village at the time while working for German publications in the city. His first project was photographing the artists and the scene at Pier 34 on the Hudson at Canal/Spring Street.

The then decaying piers, including a 1930s Ward Line shipping terminal at Canal Street, became the canvas for artists David Wojnarowicz and Mike Bidlo and other artists, who transformed the space with their art despite there being no funding for the experiment.

"This is where I met everyone, as many East Village artists worked at the pier," he tells us, explaining that the Pier project was started by David Wojnarowicz and Mike Bidlo, and blossomed into a "fantastical, anarchic, creative, free spirited and uncontrollable art project."

Sterzing himself became part of the East Village art scene and documented his friends, local events, street art, performances, the neighborhood, and did feature stories for art magazines at the time.

Below is the video slideshow of the neighborhood during that time, which evokes a gritty but beautiful East Village with a vibrant community of artists:

Alphabet City & the East Village Art Scene NYC 1980s © Andreas Sterzing from Andreas Sterzing on Vimeo.

The photos in the video are all Sterzing's, which he took during his time here. They have also been featured in a number of exhibitions, including "Something Possible Everywhere: Pier 34 NYC 1983/84" in 2016, in the David Wojnarowicz retrospective exhibition at the Whitney in 2018, and in an exhibition at the Seoul Museum of Art. You can learn more about these at his website.

When looking back at his photos, Sterzing says the East Village in the 1980s was a special time.

"Cities change a lot in a generation; I happened to be in New York at a time when it was still possible for artists to live in relatively cheap apartments in the city, when money and fame was less important than it is now," he said.

Check out his "Something Possible Everywhere" slideshow, which shows more of the Pier 34 project here.

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