Mick Jagger never went there. Andy Warhol never mentioned it in his diaries. But in the late 1970s and early 80's, Club 57 was arguably the most transgressive downtown ­Manhattan venue of all. Located in the basement of a Polish church on St. Marks Place, the scrappy multidisciplinary hot spot—equal parts performance and exhibition space, cinema, and misfits’ rec room—was literally underground. Though overshadowed by more fabled New York dens of iniquity, it helped to launch the careers of Keith Haring, Kenny Scharf, and Klaus Nomi, among others.

In the Club - November 2017 - Intel
The bar at Club 57, in 1981.

Lina Bertucci/courtesy of the artist

Beginning October 31 (through April 1, 2018), the Museum of Modern Art unveils “Club 57: Film, Performance, and Art in the East Village, 1978–1983.” Curated by Ron Magliozzi and Sophie Cavoulacos, the exhibition revisits the work of the club’s better-known regulars, alongside that of free spirits like the artist John Sex, who created many of its posters and flyers; the dancer and fashion designer Shawn McQuate, better known as AMMO; and the photographer Tseng Kwong Chi. For artist Ann Magnuson, the venue’s original performance director and the show’s guest curator, Club 57 “is like a memorial for creative freedom and all these amazing cultural shape-shifters, many of whom left us before they were afforded the recognition they deserved.”