This colourful account of the history of nightclub design is a perfect exhibition with which to reopen the V&A Dundee. Nightclubs and dancehalls are precious cultural spaces that often play a pivotal role in our lives. Night Fever explores the relationship between club culture design, looking at how this has changed from Italy in the 1960s right through to everyone’s living rooms today with the online streaming of club nights. 

    So boys and girls, get out your glitter ball, squeeze into your shocking pink satin disco trousers (admit it, you have a pair in your closet) and let your imagination fly back to the Bee Gees.

    These were the days of Studio 54, with “dream-maker” Andy Warhol weaving his magic wand of fame and Bianca Jager arriving on a white horse. It may because of the social austerity of the last year, but never an exhibition had got me this excited. Think making out with John Travolta or Barry Gibb under the flashing light of the dance floor, strutting your stuff to the beat of “Saturday Night Fever”.

    Nightclubs are spaces for adventure and escape…

    Discotheque Flash Back. Borgo San Dalmazzo (1972).

    Nightclubs are spaces for adventure and escape, spaces that encourage experimental and radical design, from New York’s Studio 54 to Manchester’s Haçienda or Ministry of Sound II in London. They are an example of a 360 degrees design exercise employing architecture, art, fashion, graphics, lighting, performance and sound to create an immersive sensory experience where design, music and technology meet on the dancefloor. 
    From Italy to New York, Paris, Manchester, London, Beirut and Berlin, this exhibition charts how nightclub design has changed and developed over the decades. There is even a section on Scotland’s unique and distinct club culture, including legendary club nights in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Paisley, investigating how the Scottish club scene holds closer ties to the music and influences of Chicago, Detroit and Europe than London clubs. 

    Other clubs from around the world featured in the show include The Electric Circus, New York (1967), Space Electronic, Florence (1969), B018, Beirut (1998) and The Mothership, Detroit (2015) among many others. 

    Dance floor at Xenon, New York (1979). Bill Bernstein.

    The show celebrates these critical cultural spaces at an especially important moment, a year on from the first coronavirus lockdown, when we all look to a brighter future where everyone can come back together, dance and enjoy shared public experiences once again. 
    So yes Sir, I can boogie, I can boogie, boogie woogie all night long.

    Night Fever: Designing Club Culture
    V&A Dundee. 1 Riverside Esplanade, Dundee DD1 4EZ
    1st May to 9th January 2022.

    Words: Lavinia Dickson-Robinson

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