Starman

The Brooklyn Museum’s Night of 1,000 Bowies Was a Night to Be Yourself

The dance party, held at the Brooklyn Museum, had more than 2,000 people who came to dance and celebrate the legacy of the late artist.

The “David Bowie Is” exhibit has been open at the Brooklyn Museum for more than two months now, so it was about time for a dance party. On Friday, more than 2,000 David Bowie fans came to the museum to celebrate the Starman, his legacy, and his many artistic selves, at a dance party produced by Bushwick-based circus-performance nightclub House of Yes, in partnership with Little Cinema.

Guests could get their makeup done at the beauty booth, and balloons floated down from the ceiling while performers walked on stilts among the crowd. The third floor was home to a stage where a Bowie impersonator sang “Fame.” But the real Bowie look-alikes of the night walked the stage for a costume contest, where all kinds of Bowies, from powdered suits to spike-y blonde wigs—took to the stage.

Emma Leeds attends Night of 1,000 Bowies.

Photograph by Dolly Faibyshev.

Partiers could get their best Bowie makeup looks, complete with big bold eyes, at the beauty parlor on the first floor.

Coordinators Jay Rinsky and Kae Burke.

Photograph by Dolly Faibyshev.

Jay Rinsky, left, founder of Little Cinema, has been working with House of Yes co-founder Kae Burke for several years. Rinsky threw a Bowie-themed party at House of Yes just a few days after the icon’s death in January 2016.

Photograph by Dolly Faibyshev.

Performers, dressed as many versions of Bowie, even had the option of buying a mezcal drink called the “Illegal Space Oddity,” which sold out before the end of the night.

Photograph by Dolly Faibyshev.

“So much of what my work is about is to provide multiple entry points for museum-goers to feel welcome in the museum, to have exciting encounters to art and to have a good time,” said Lauren Zelaya, assistant curator of public programs for the museum. “This was such a natural opportunity for that. David Bowie is such an icon in breaking the mold in terms of his gender identity, too. I’ve heard from a lot of visitors just how much they identify with that.”

Photograph by Dolly Faibyshev.

Jumpsuits, stripes, stars, and powdered blue were just some of the looks on Friday night. But the distinct Bowie hair never failed to impress.

Photograph by Dolly Faibyshev.

The costume contest brought with it lots of glitter, too.

“What’s amazing about what Brooklyn Museum has done—for not just us, but for recognition of performance and life as an art form—is that it’s giving people pride and opportunity and the recognition they deserve,” Burke said. “The art of partying is actually being respected. And it’s really cool. It really is the art of bringing people together, the art of entertaining. That’s what this party is for me.”

Photograph by Dolly Faibyshev.
Photograph by Dolly Faibyshev.

“[David Bowie] is the quintessential example of just being able to transcend artistic integrity, transcend pop culture, and be relevant across multiple decades of change within pop culture and music,” Rinsky said. “For me personally, as an artist, it’s the biggest inspiration of never being stuck in one place and constantly changing and constantly evolving and constantly trying something new, and not being scared of being weird and funny and obscure, and also hitting the mainstream, and bigger markets.”

Photograph by Dolly Faibyshev.

The party, which Zelaya said sold out in 24 hours, had a line leading out the museum door, full of eager Bowies waiting to get inside and get dancing.

The professional Bowie look-alike, known as “Fauxie Bowie,” said that he wanted to quit when the artist died, but was encouraged by fans to keep going. So far, he’s done shows in Europe, the U.S., and Asia. He’s still working on making a performance happen in Australia.

“David Bowie is a storyteller,” Rinsky said. “He invented characters; he invented Ziggy Stardust and all these theater roles and introduced them into different mediums. This guy was so ahead of his time in just taking a concept and infusing it in a completely different art form.”

Photograph by Dolly Faibyshev.
Photograph by Dolly Faibyshev.
Photograph by Dolly Faibyshev.

“What’s really exciting is that there are people who are addicted to nightlife and are ‘go out’ kinds of people,” Burke said. “This is for super-fans. This is a super-fan opportunity and people who are really indulgent in the culture and the iconic artist. I don’t think all these people love going out. I think they need a real reason to go out.”

Photographs by Dolly Faibyshev.

“For me, as a queer-identified person, I think he’s such an icon in how he pushed boundaries in terms of his gender representation, the way he was able to wear clothing of all kinds,” Zelaya said.

Photograph by Dolly Faibyshev.

Rinsky said the fact that this exhibit is at the Brooklyn Museum, and accessible to anyone who walks in and wants to see it, reminds people of the “magnitude of David Bowie.”

“We’re really committed to being a museum that breaks the mold and is not a stuffy institution where people feel like they’re not welcome and is not an extension of their communities,” Zelaya said. “That’s what I’m excited about: breaking down those silos, pushing back against how people think of museums as stuffy and inaccessible.”

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