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New York, New Music: 1980–1986

June 11 @ 8:00 am - December 31 @ 5:00 pm EDT

LL Cool J, 1985 NYC, Copyright Janette Beckman
LL Cool J, 1985 NYC, Copyright Janette Beckman


Museum of the City of New York, the city’s storyteller for almost 100 years, today shared details for New York, New Music: 1980-1986, a new exhibition that revisits the music scene of early 1980s New York City. The exhibition examines this transformative era through the lens of emerging pivotal music genres and the influence they played on New York’s broader cultural landscape. Opening on June 11, in advance of MTV’s 40th anniversary in August, the exhibition highlights diverse musical artists—from Run DMC to the Talking Heads, from Madonna to John Zorn— to explore the broader music and cultural scene, including the innovative media outlets, venues, fashion, and visual arts centered in the city during that time.


Photography by Charlie Ahearn, [Debbie Harry, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Fab 5 Freddy with others on the set for the music video for "Rapture"]
Photography by Charlie Ahearn, [Debbie Harry, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Fab 5 Freddy with others on the set for the music video for “Rapture”]


OPENS JUNE 11, 2021




Museum and Museum Store hours
Friday through Sunday (closed Monday through Thursday)
10:00 am–6:00 pm
(10:00 am–11:00 am on Fridays are recommended for seniors and other high-risk individuals.)

1220 Fifth Avenue @ 103rd St.
Ramp access @ 104th St.
New York, NY 10029

Admission (includes all exhibitions)
Adults: $20
Seniors (65+), Students: $14 (with I.D.)
Under age 20: Free
Members: Free

New York, New Music at MCNY | Photography by Brad Farwell
New York, New Music at MCNY | Photography by Brad Farwell

“The early 1980s were a time of significant transition in New York, with the city facing crime, urban decay, and homelessness. And yet, despite those challenges, it was also a particularly fertile time for music and other creativity in New York City,” says Whitney Donhauser, Ronay Menschel Director and President, Museum of the City of New York. “The musical innovations of this time period are a great example of the resilience of the city and the importance of art and creativity as forces of transformation.”  

New York, New Music: 1980-1986 is organized around a series of key “moments” and features more than 350 objects, including video footage, photography, artifacts, and ephemera. such as:

Photography by GODLIS, <i> No Wave Punks, Bowery </i>
Photography by GODLIS, No Wave Punks, Bowery
  • Photographs by Janette Beckman, Martha Cooper, Joe Conzo, William Coupon, Bob Gruen, Laura Levine, Ebet Roberts, Chris Stein and others
  • Flyers for Beastie Boys; Bad Brains; Sonic Youth; Teenage Jesus; The Feelies; and Gray and DNA at CBGB
  • An MTV Music Awards Moon Person Award Statue
  • Vinyl Records from Madonna, Funky 4+1, Liquid Liquid, and Konk
  • A Zoot Suit and hat worn by Kid Creole
  •  A t-shirt and other ephemera from Keith Haring and DJ Larry Levan’s “Party of Life” event at Paradise Garage
  • Guitars from Tim Wright, Arto Lindsay, and Richard McGuire
  • “Merman” costume worn by Joey Arias in “Mermaids on Parade” at Danceteria
  • Music videos and rare concert footage including Grand Master Flash; Fort Apache Band; Lounge Lizards; Cyndi Lauper; and more 

“During the 80s, there was a community-driven musical renaissance in New York City. It was an era of creativity and genre-defying performance that, in my mind, stands as one of the most influential in musical and cultural history,” says Sean Corcoran, curator of prints and photography, Museum of the City of New York. “That wide range of music –from no wave to pop to hip-hop to salsa to jazz, mixed in a dynamic arts scene that stretched across clubs and bars, theaters, parks, and art spaces– provided fertile ground for a musical revolution — one that continues to influence pop culture to this day.”

Those performances and moments, some with long-lasting influence, others that brought together a confluence of performers and underscored the fluidity of the participants in the cultural scene, are highlighted in the main gallery of New York, New Music. Viewed together, these examples provide a sense of the innovation, energy, and cross-pollination of musical ideas that was happening across the city at the moment of openness and creativity. 




William Coupon, <i>Miles Davis</i>
William Coupon, Miles Davis

About the Museum of the City of New York 

The Museum of the City of New York fosters understanding of the distinctive nature of urban life in the world’s most influential metropolis. It engages visitors by celebrating, documenting, and interpreting the city’s past, present, and future. To connect with the Museum on social media, follow us on Instagram and Twitter at @MuseumofCityNY and visit our Facebook page at Facebook.com/MuseumofCityNY. For more information, please visit www.mcny.org.


June 11 @ 8:00 am EDT
December 31 @ 5:00 pm EDT


Museum of the City of New York
1220 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY United States
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