Fashion & Beauty / Collections Digest

Lot 180: Downtown New York

We explore Lot 180's latest exhibition of iconic pop culture ephemera, remembering New York during the 1970s and 1980s

Diana Ross, Silk Electric, c. 1982 by Andy Warhol
Diana Ross, Silk Electric, c. 1982 by Andy Warhol Photography courtesy of Lot 180

Lot 180’s latest exhibition captures the notorious epochal whirlwind that was New York during the 1970s and 80s, through a nostalgic series of photographs, vinyl covers, poster art and musical ephemera, designed by the likes of Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

The decade nurtured Patti Smith, Talking Heads, The Velvet Underground and The Clash, amongst others, and in turn it was defined by their artwork, poetry and music. The Chealsea Hotel, Studio 54 and Warhol's Factory acted as a backdrop for their punk, rock and pop art playground. The exhibition features iconic imagery such as Sticky Fingers by The Rolling Stones: a vinyl cover featuring a photograph of a prominent denim crotch, a piece of innuendo thought up by Andy Warhol and photographed by Billy Name. The original sleeve included a working zipper and mock belt buckle that opened to reveal a pair of cotton briefs. Then there is Sheila Take a Bow by The Smiths (1987), which uses a photograph of Candy Darling from Women in Revolt (1971) by Andy Warhol. Transgender Darling was one of Warhol’s harem, better known as Warhol Superstar.

"New York at that time was a chaotic, burning urban landscape that would forever change the face of America" – Ron Kosa.

The exhibition was curated by Ron Kosa, a former club kid from the 1980s. “I first became entranced by the era in the late 1990s, when Rudolph Giuliani embarked on a crusade to gentrify and clean up New York, for better or for worse. As a Brooklyn native and Manhattan resident for the past twenty years, I began to feel alienated by the massive changes taking place,” Kosa explains. “Even though the city became safer, its culture, especially the Downtown culture I knew and came-of-age in, began to slowly but surely disappear. For me, the 1970s and early 1980s was a time in which New York was the New York that I forever love: a chaotic, burning urban landscape that would forever change the face of America.”

Photography comes courtesy of Alex Harsley, known for his observation of New York sidewalks and Robert Herman, who has been photographing the changing demographic of New York since 1978. There is also work by acclaimed rock and roll photographer Leni Sinclair, a radical political activist who blended art and activism throughout the 70s and 80s with her prolific documentation of the NY music scene. Keith Haring's vinyl covers for Sylvester also hang at the exhibition, fusing graffiti-inspired street art and absolute disco. These cultural relics tell a nostalgic story of old New York, proving that while Downtown architecture may have changed, the city's spirit is still alight.

Text by Mhairi Graham