Anton Perich’s NIGHT Magazine Studio 54, Club Culture and Art, 1978-79

One of the reasons that the art world in the 1970s and 80s was so appealing was its close connection to New York nightlife. The relationship between nightclubs and art was at times superficial, but it could also be profound in ways that fundamentally altered both the content and format of serious visual art. The little known magazine NIGHT captures this phenomenon with striking photographs that show how fashion, art, and music intermixed at clubs like Studio 54 and encouraged both the rise of performance and new forms of post-pop celebrity media art.

NIGHT was the creation of artist and photographer Anton Perich who, inspired by Andy Warhol’s Interview, made the decision to publish his own magazine using his own money. The first issue of NIGHT was devoted exclusively to Studio 54 and consisted entirely of Perich’s photographs along with a few advertisements from Halston and other fashion businesses.  Perich was also the magazine’s art director whose choice of an oversized 17 x 21 inch format on quality white paper stock gave the picture newspaper its distinctive visual identity.

Gallery 98 has been fortunate to acquire a collection of some of the early issues (September 1978 to 1979) along with related promotional material.

NIGHT was a product of the art world. The Croatian-born Perich had spent time in Paris where he was part of the Lettrist art movement, and the organizer of underground films screenings at the American Center. In 1970 he moved to New York lured largely by the mystique of Andy Warhol whom he soon met. Perich fully embraced Warhol’s expanding world of popular culture and mass media. Independent publications that creatively documented celebrities, and saw nightlife through the lens of performance, had now become works of art themselves.

In New York Perich began taking pictures at Max’s Kansas City for Warhol’s magazine Interview and other publications; and in 1973, he started a cable TV show often using Warhol stars like Taylor Mead and Candy Darling. He made his first visit to Studio 54 soon after the club opened in April ’77, on assignment for fashion editor Annie Flanders of the Soho Weekly News.  Perich was instantly hooked by the glamorous scene, and returned nightly, usually staying until the wee hours when patrons were at their most uninhibited.

As an accomplished paparazzo Perich photographed celebrities, but he also turned his camera on the club goers, the beautiful women and men who had made it past the velvet rope and were one of Studio 54’s main calling card. During this period long before the internet and cell-phone cameras, Perich’s pictures of eagerly posing people can be seen as “proto-selfies.”

Perich’s candid photos of people dancing and cavorting include the now classic shot of model Patti Hansen topless on the club floor. As NIGHT’s art director, Perich created deliberately provocative full-page photo collages like the one of aging playboy and art patron Huntington Hartford surrounded by young models.

With the success of the first issue of NIGHT the magazine expanded to include interviews and news stories as well as coverage of Regine’s and other clubs favored by the high-end fashion crowd. NIGHT quickly attracted a distinctive team of contributors: Robert Henry Rubin (co-editor), Dan Gershon (Advertising), R Couri Hay, Victor Bockris, Candace Bushnell, Neke Carson, and Halston’s friend, artist Victor Hugo (Rojas). The now acclaimed fashion illustrator and style guru Antonio Lopez was a particularly important contributor, providing fully designed spreads celebrating his entourage of models and friends. Distribution for the magazine’s early issues was provided by the trendy boutique Fiorucci’s through its stores in New York, Los Angeles, and Milan.

Perich’s decision to leave NYC nightlife for a quieter existence working as a painter in suburban Katonah brought NIGHT to an abrupt halt in 1980. He revived the magazine in the 90’s but with the toll of AIDS and the decline of the club scene the free-wheeling spirit that had made the early issues so appealing had become muted.  With increasingly lengthy gaps between issues NIGHT persisted until its last issue #57 dated 2011.

Patti Hansen, NIGHT Magazine Issue 1
Andy Warhol with NIGHT Magazine, 1979, photo by Anton Perich

From the Collection