In the 1980s, Photographer Ben Buchanan Captured the Late Nights of New York’s Downtown Art Scene—See the Raucous Images Here
A new online exhibition with Ellis Force Art Partners presents rarely seen photographs from the era.
The 1980s art scene, like many aspects of New York City life in that decade, is infamous for its wild parties, buzzy celebrities who palled around with A-list artists, and an aura of general glitz and glamour shot through with a darker thread of debauchery. A constant refrain of later generations is a wistful yearning “to be a fly on the wall of that night club,” where Keith Haring mugged for the camera alongside a stony-faced, fright-wig wearing Andy Warhol, and Jean-Michel Basquiat DJ’ed in between creating a spontaneous painting for an audience of revelers and rock stars.
Now, thanks to a new virtual exhibition presented by Ellis Force Art Partners, viewers can see just what those raucous nights (and mornings) really looked like, through the camera lens of photographer Ben Buchanan. The exhibition, titled “All Tomorrow’s Parties: New York 1983–1987” documents the art world’s heyday, when Buchanan served as the resident photographer at AREA nightclub, a celebrity watering hole and dance club where pop cultural icons from David Hockney and Kenny Scharf to Grace Jones and Keith Richards rubbed shoulders with Johnny Rotten, Billy Idol, the Beastie Boys and The Ramones.
“New York City in the early 1980s was probably the only time and place that Area could have happened on such a grand scale” the club’s co-founder Eric Goode said, “We had the freedom to create our own playground, to build or do almost anything we wanted, without concern for the laws, rules, ordinances, and regulations that exist today.”
According to Buchanan, his prime position was something of a fluke—”I had turned up at AREA looking for a job, and they gave me a camera I had no idea how to use” he said, adding “they told me to point it at anything interesting.” And there was always something interesting. “They were always creating something, even when they were relaxing” he said in a press statement, “At a meal for the assembled artists there was a sketchbook being passed around–Jean-Michel drew a portrait of Leroy Neiman–Andy [Warhol] tipped out a bowl of snow peas onto his page, crushed them in, and signed it.”
Below, see highlights from the exhibition. “All Tomorrow’s Parties: New York 1983-1987″ is on view online through January 15, 2022.
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