The infamous nightclub Studio 54, which was opened 40 years ago by Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, became the hub of New York City’s party scene for almost 3 years. It attracted a diverse crowd including celebrities in search of fun, lucky locals, and photographers who captured the entire experience.
Gene Patz, a pioneering paparazzo, captured rare images inside the nightclub, but they were never exhibited nor collected. Instead, they were inherited by his younger sister Amy Lowen after Spatz died in 2003.
According to Lowen, she received the images in filing cabinets which she kept in storage for almost a decade before searching through them. She states, “It wasn’t until he was gone, and I had brought everything home and put it in storage, that I began to open up these envelopes and discover his work.”
When she finally unpacked the filing cabinets that she inherited from her older brother, Lowen discovered a treasure trove of never-before-seen images of high-profile celebrities inside the infamous nightclub. This photo shows Andy Warhol and Phyllis Diller being lifted by an unknown individual.
The black and white photographs were taken inside hotspots including Studio 54 and Xenox. They feature images of legends including Carrie Fisher, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Mary Tyler Moore, and Robert Redford. They also showcase whimsical images of New York City’s street life in the 70s and 80s. This photo shows a young Michael Jackson standing outside the famed club.
Lowen immediately recognized some of the celebrities in the photographs, others were a little less high-profile. Another issue she faced was that she was not sure of the value of this archive of images. This photo shows a Mick Jagger Jerry Hall.
Would these images still be relevant 40 years later, and if so, just how valuable are they? Here is a photo showing a young Suzanne Somers.
She first decided to reach out to local artists for advice, but the task proved to be overwhelming. During her search, she discovered an organization called POBA that is dedicated to recognizing and crediting artists whose work went unnoticed while they were alive. Here is a picture of Sly Stone showcasing his flashy smile.
Regan McCarthy at POBA was able to recognize the archive that Lowen inherited from her brother to ensure that his legacy is honored. This photo shows Rudolf Nureyev, Steve Rubell, and Liza Minnelli having some fun.
The photos are unique to others captured in the nightclub because of Spatz’ sensitivity and what is known as a ‘kind camera.’ The photos are flattering of their subjects, never embarrassing, and reveal the intimacy that existed in that space. This photo shows Kris Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge, and Steve Rubell having a laugh.
For this reason, these images are not only fine art but they present history in a way that has never been documented. Here’s a photo of Frank Zappa showing off his stuff.