NEW YORK, NY.-
A New Orleans bar is coming to New York but with a difference. This bar doesn't serve alcohol. And the regulars are long gone.
The bar is the Upstairs Lounge, a bohemian French Quarter bar that was destroyed decades ago in a mysterious fire whose story has a surprising power.
On a warm summer night in 1973, a popular gay bar in the French Quarter burned down with everyone inside, killing 32 people and injuring dozens more. It was the worst fire in New Orleans history. For such a shocking event, it is (perhaps not surprisingly) little known. Police knew it was arson but could never find hard evidence and the main suspect was never charged as most of the witnesses would not speak to the police - a strange reformulation of silence =death, but understandable given the hostility of the force to the gay community. All but one church refused to hold memorial services for the victims. And a city famed for its open attitude was content to look the other way. The story was allowed to fade from memory.
No Longer Empty
presents Skylar Fein's installation, Remember the Upstairs Lounge, which walks visitors right through the swinging bar doors. The show throws a stark light on a hidden chapter of history and offers visual riffs on politics and sexuality circa 1973.
The show also has a few surprises, including an artifact from the fire -- one that has been zealously guarded by a survivor for over 35 years -- and crime scene photos that are so graphic they have never been shown before. Despite the tough material, it's a show made for a general audience, and became a local phenomenon when it was shown in 2008 in New Orleans itself.
"It's like the Upstairs Lounge is rising from the ashes," Fein says. "And what could be a better symbol of life in New Orleans right now?" The installation was first shown at Prospect 1, the first New Orleans' biennial founded by Dan Cameron in 2008. No Longer Empty has invited Dan Cameron to recreate this important work in New York City.
The exhibition will be accompanied by programming including a panel discussion on Tuesday May 4th which will address the relationship between art and social causes. Skylar Fein will give an "artist talk" and tours of the exhibition throughout its run.
No Longer Empty (NLE) is a not for profit organization that orchestrates public art exhibitions in vacated storefronts and properties.
Remember The Upstairs Lounge first debuted at Prospect.1 Biennial in New Orleans (Nov '08 - Jan '09) and was one of the highlights of that biennial exhibition drawing thousands of visitors and receiving critical reviews in numerous local and national publications.
Since the original installation, Fein has had his first solo museum exhibition and his work has been acquired by several museum collections.
Skylar Fein is represented by Jonathan Ferrara Gallery
, New Orleans. The exhibition is made possible with the generous support of Brookshire Equities, LLC.