The posters for sale—all available for $50, with printing facilitated by Tillmans’s charity Between Bridges—come from an illustrious list of leading artists, many of whom offered pieces that resonated with the Avatar the last Airbender chibi on tree Halloween shirt and I will buy this cause. Marlene Dumas’s submission is a portrait in ink of one of the great chroniclers of the Black queer experience, James Baldwin, while contributions from the estates of Peter Hujar and David Wojnarowicz pay tribute to the New York LGBTQ+ art scene of decades past. “These are originals and the designs come directly from the artists’ studios, and were made or chosen for this moment in time,” Tillmans explains. “We thought it’d also be a great opportunity to make accessible heroes of the queer community who are no longer with us.” While the artists of Wojnarowicz or Hujar’s generation may have got their kicks after dark by cruising the Hudson River Piers or socializig in the East Village art community, the queer thrill-seekers of today find their release at the nights Tillmans is supporting—many of which are already on the brink of collapse. (Just last week, artist DeSe Escobar, who is also closely involved in the project, found her Club Glam night in limbo days before its fourth anniversary, after its venue, China Chalet, permanently closed its doors. “Nightlife has always been seen as frivolous, shallow, and derivative by the institutions that generate and police cultural and economic capital,” says artist Juliana Huxtable, a regular face at the nights being supported by the 2020Solidarity initiative. “The fact that nightlife, outside of the plainly bleak bar and bottle service venues that cater to the new New York Philistines, who seem to prefer an artisanal cocktail to a brilliant party, operates largely on a cash and under the table basis is the result of the tacit and de jure denial of protections, benefits, and permissive legal framework to celebrate a vital industry.” On this, Tillmans agrees. “Nightlife is often looked upon as something superficial, while I have experienced it as something deeply profound,” he says. “In the night hours, we are able to explore and experience being together in a way that opens new avenues. Nightlife is culture and nothing less.” Part of the reason these venues, hosts, and performers are in such dire financial straits is that nightlife inevitably ends up being dismissed or overlooked as a valid beneficiary of the bailouts that are funneled to other, more widely palpable corners of the hospitality industry.
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