In the late 1970s, crowds gathered nightly beneath a black laminate marquee in midtown Manhattan in hopes of being ushered through the throngs of Diana Ross enthusiasts and Hollywood hangers-on as some of the lucky, glossy, hard-partying few admitted into Studio 54, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager’s beacon of disco and debauchery. And even though its heyday was remarkably brief (and the club closed officially by the mid-1980s), the aura, the glamour, and the reckless abandon of Studio 54 manage to live on, even among those who never set foot on its glitter-dusted dance-floor.
There was Liza Minelli with her wide eyes and flapper “do”; Halston with his turtlenecks and tux; Truman Capote with his wide-brimmed hat; Mick Jagger, Bianca Jagger, Grace Jones, Diane von Furstenberg, Carolina Herrera, Warren Beatty, Paloma Picasso, Martha Graham, Ryan O’Neal, and Debbie Harry with her unique brand of sexpot-punk. There were drag queens with mile-long lashes and bouffant hair; pasties; fringe; mirrored globes; shirtless go-go dancers with cash tips peeping out of low-slung boxers; Campbell’s-soup-cans-cum-boas; and endless bottles of Moët & Chandon.
Then, of course, there was Andy. Part conspirator, part fly-on-the-wall, the white-wigged artist’s penchant for all things beautiful, wild, famous, and weird coalesced magically at Studio 54. He sketched and snapped fellow denizens and rubbed shoulders with the superstars that populated his paintings. He was a fixture, an icon, and an institution as essential to the club as Gloria Gaynor, Donna Summer, and its famously impenetrable door policy. Now, 36 years after Studio 54’s opening night festivities, Christie’s is honoring its legacy with a selection of sketches, prints, and archival photographs—moments frozen in time that vividly capture the late great hotspot and its impossibly glamorous habituées. As Warhol himself once said, “The best thing about a picture is that it never changes, even when the people in it do.”