Today, nightlife has all but vanished from the area, killed off by the double whammy of drug violence and the recession. But the cool kids are back—to turn Club Row into Art Row. This month, British gallerist Paul Kasmin, whose original space is next door to one of the neighborhood's last remaining mega-clubs, Marquee, opens a new location in what used to be Bungalow 8—the super-exclusive, post-millennial answer to Studio 54 that established the area as a nightlife hub. Kasmin, once a Bungalow regular, nabbed the space after hearing it might be turned into another nightclub. "I said, 'No! Quick, let me call the owner!' " The new outpost soft-launched in November with a party for the Chinese-dissident artist Ai Weiwei.
Traditional art spaces have also been filling the void left by the disappearance of clubs. MoMA, the Guggenheim, and the Brooklyn Museum all host popular party nights. At MoMA PS1 in Queens, the webzine DIS recently threw a bash for buzzy artist Ryan Trecartin with a blonde 15-year-old rapper performing atop an Escalade next to a gyrating 300-pound stripper; if you squinted, it looked almost like Limelight in its glory days. "People got bored by clubs being the same thing week after week," explains DIS editor Solomon Chase. "We do art events to create moments." So it makes sense that the ultimate art event, Art Basel Miami Beach, has become the biggest happening on the social calendar. Already, nightlife entrepreneurs are seeking to cash in on this shift, with the owners of the meatpacking-district hot spot 1OAK opening an art-themed Las Vegas location (designed by celebrity fave Roy Nachum) on New Year's Eve.
There's history here. When nightlife loses its way, it's usually the art world that offers direction, from Andy Warhol's Exploding Plastic Inevitable happenings in the sixties to the eighties nightclub Area enlisting name-brand artists like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat as creative partners. Colen welcomes the pendulum shift. "Some cool, fun things come out of the art world," he says. "But not much cool comes out of the club world."