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Susanne Bartsch

Susanne Bartsch 

An event producer whose outlandish, over-the-top monthly parties at the Copacabana in the late 1980s united the haute and demi-monde, and made her an icon of New York nightlife. "Ms. Bartsch's name," according to the New York Times, is "the night life equivalent of a couture label, thanks to the numerous extravaganzas she staged in cities from Montreal to Miami.

Born in Switzerland, Bartsch left her family at the age of 17 and moved to London, where she became an intimate of such celebrities as Jimmy Page,  Malcolm  McLaren, and many others. After moving to New York City in 1981, she opened a clothing boutique in SoHo that provided early exposure for British designers, including Vivienne Westwood, BodyMap, John Galliano, and milliner Stephen Jones. She also helped launch the careers of young American designers Alpana Bawa and Michael Leva, and was an associate of the Club Kids.

By the late 1980s, the economy was slowing and with retail sales for edgy clothing increasingly difficult, Bartsch began organizing weekly parties at prominent NYC nightclubs such as Savage, Bentley's, and, finally, the Copacabana. Bartsch created the "Love Ball" in 1989 and raised $2.5 million to fight AIDS. For the first time, dance/vogueing/presentation and Houses inspired by drag balls in Harlem were introduced to a national audience.

Bartsch took part in philanthropic work, running annual holiday toy drives along with her partner David Barton, whom she married in a lavish 1995 wedding. The pair separated in late 2010.

In 2015, The Museum at FIT mounted an exhibit celebrating her famous costumes.

An exhibition entitled Susanne Bartsch: Art-a-Porter is on view at The Tampa Museum of Art from July 30 - Nov. 11, 2017.