Multicolored laser beams, day-glo dance floors, mirror-plated ceilings, kitschy patterned carpets, giant spaceship sculptures: from its nascence in the 1960s, discotheque aesthetics has been defined by the whimsical and the offbeat. Those familiar with artist Adrian Wilson, better known today for his humorous, subversive interventions across New York City, may be surprised to learn that he got his start reveling in this unique typography, capturing the heyday of European disco design in the late 1980s and ’90s.
As a freelancer for trade publications like Disco Mirror and European Discotheque Review for 11 years, he shot over 800 venues, including Ministry of Sound in London; Ku Club in Ibiza; and Le Malvern in Arzon, France. Using medium format slide film, Wilson says, he “documented the golden age of discos before bottle service and bland design.”
“After I stopped shooting for them, the magazines threw out all the images,” the artist told Hyperallergic. “I don’t blame them — at the time, I saw no value in 10-year-old random discos either, but now I think these would make an amazing book.”
Because the magazines depended on the advertising dollars of the companies that furnished the spaces or installed equipment, Wilson always photographed the clubs empty. As a result, the images are strikingly crisp, rare views of legendary venues like the 65,000-square-feet Genux club in Lonato, Italy — which featured a massive light fixture in the shape of a human brain suspended above the dance floor and claimed to be the largest disco in the world.
“Suddenly it became a kind of fantasy world where everyone was doing these themed nightclubs with crazy things like viking boats and volcanoes, anything to attract people,” Wilson said.
His favorite disco, however, Club Paradiso in the Northern Italian city of Rimini, was not the most eccentric but rather “supremely elegant.”
“It was the best-designed place in the world,” he continued. “I seem to remember they had cameras pointing at other tables so one could check out the other customers by looking at a TV screen on the table instead of looking at them.”
Seen today, when mass-produced minimalism and mid-century modern monotony continue to dominate the landscape of design, Wilson’s images of the quirky and extravagant disco interiors are immediately enchanting. But that wasn’t always the case, the artist says; when he approached Architectural Review with the photos a few years back, an editor described 1990s disco design as “universally abhorrent.”
“There was a snobbery toward discos,” Wilson said. “Because they weren’t really bound by taste or anything. They were meant to be a fantasy land, escapism. And that’s kind of missing nowadays.”
Met Museum Repatriates 15 Objects to India
The sculptures were all at one point sold by the disgraced art dealer Subhash Kapoor.
Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova Placed on Russian “Wanted” List
Tolokonnikova has long been a thorn in the side of Vladimir Putin’s regime.
The Public Theater Explores the Hurricane Katrina Diaspora in shadow/land
Written by Erika Dickerson-Despenza and directed by Candis C. Jones, this lyrical meditation on legacy, erotic fugitivity, and self-determination is on view in NYC.
Vivan Sundaram, Veteran Indian Contemporary Artist, Dies at 79
Sundaram is celebrated for his multidisciplinary studio practice steeped in activism and political consciousness.
What’s Iconoclastic About a Blackface Madonna?
Artist Tony Rave’s work comes to remind us that piety is not strictly White.
The Rubin Museum Presents Death Is Not the End
Tibetan Buddhist and Christian works of art made across 12 centuries explore death, the afterlife, and the desire to continue to exist. On view in NYC.
The Most Stirring Press Photographs of 2022
Photographs captured war-torn Ukraine, the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, and an Iranian woman defying the mandatory hijab law.
NY Governor’s Proposed Budget Slashes Pandemic-Era Arts Funds
The cuts to the New York State Council on the Arts budget are attributed to the expiration of pandemic relief programs, but advocates say arts organizations need more support.
When I Am Empty Please Dispose of Me Properly
Ayanna Dozier, Ilana Harris-Babou, Meena Hasan, Lucia Hierro, Catherine Opie, Chuck Ramirez, and Pacifico Silano explore the myths of the American Dream at Brooklyn’s BRIC House.
MoMA Apologizes for Kicking Out Black Artist From Installation
Museum security asked Heather Agyepong to leave the installation Black Power Naps, meant as a safe space for Black people, after a White visitor called her “aggressive.”
New York’s BIPOC-Led Arts Orgs Are Grossly Underfunded
Proposed cuts to arts funding across the state would hit entities of color the hardest.
Pratt’s 2023 Fine Arts MFA Thesis Exhibition Is On View in Brooklyn
The two-part exhibition features the work of 41 graduating artists across disciplines, including painting, sculpture, printmaking, and integrated practices.
New Directors/New Films Festival Takes an Experimental Turn
A host of documentaries exemplify ND/NF’s unconventional programming philosophy.
Memories So Fair and Bright
Kimetha Vanderveen’s paintings are about the interaction of materiality and light, the bond between the palpable and ephemeral world in which we live.