Gallery 98, a specialized outlet for art and ephemera from 1970s and ’80s downtown New York, has done something special with its new online exhibition, spotlighting announcements and posters from its inventory. As the late twentieth century comes into historical focus, Gallery 98 provides a timeline of 40 top art events from the “Downtown Era.” Sure, this list courts controversy, and is more than a little subjective. The hope, though, is that it will capture the excitement of the era, and its historical contours.
What is the “Downtown Era”? The period begins in the 1970s, when aspiring artists of the baby-boomer generation arrived in New York en masse. Just as the city’s galleries were starting to establish downtown spaces in SoHo and Tribeca, cheap rents drew young artists to the Lower East Side. Over the next two decades, this downtown generation would radically change the art world, opening it up to new forms of media, new modes of exhibiting art, and new social perspectives.
These cards and posters document the meteoric careers of artists like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat; the strident politics of groups like Guerrilla Girls and COLAB; and art’s movement from established galleries into nightclubs like the Palladium and D.I.Y. spaces like the Fun Gallery in the East Village, as well as the new formats of video, performance, and street art.