“On the one hand, by presenting "Nitelife,” a project devoted to new and experimental “live art,” the Museum is fulfilling its role quite neatly as an institution. That is, it is appropriating and validating as officially “avant-garde” activity which was previously and primarily subcultural (there were certainly authentic subcultural forms developed within and marketed by the East Village phenomenon). It introduces this activity with much fanfare into the mainstream and makes it palatable, no matter what happens, to its largely middle class audience.
On the other hand, long before the East Village became the site of a Montmartre-style la boheme, art spaces, like The New Museum, were the only available locales for the kind of “live art” which became the staple of clubs and discos. Few of these, with the exception of P.S. 122, are willing any longer to present new work which has not already been validated in another arena. Without the downtown clubs as venues (the Pyramid is one of the few left), the opportunities are slim, to say the least. One of the reasons that current art activity is so focused on the traditional commodity forms of painting and sculpture is that few artists are willing to pursue a career devoted to ephemeral art in an era clearly unsympathetic and nonsupportive. Thus, in classic fashion, an organization such as The New Museum can still function as a genuine “alternative” by presenting, with its tongue self-consciously in its cheek, a temporary home for a project like “Nitelife.”1