Hettie Judah looks at the history of London's art nightclubs - platforms for new types of artistic expression that were the very definition of participatory theatre.
'The Cave of the Golden Calf had such a scandalous reputation that a high society divorce case once cited the mere act of attendance as evidence of dubious character. The doorway to the notorious Mayfair club stood at the top of a steep set of steps and was illuminated by a single electric light bulb. A panel set in the wall showed the titular calf in a state of tumescence, flanked by phalluses hanging limp.
Opened in June 1912 by Frida Strindberg – writer, bohemian and ex-wife of playwright August – the Cave of the Golden Calf was named after the idol erected by the Israelites at Mount Sinai, and cultivated an appropriately pagan image. The London establishment pronounced itself England’s first and only artistic cabaret and its heady decor was provided by artists of the moment: Spencer Gore, Wyndham Lewis, Jacob Epstein, Charles Ginner.
Strindberg’s introduction to London’s creative circles had come via her tempestuous relationship with the painter Augustus John, who memorably referred to her as “the walking hell-bitch of the western world”. Surrounded by avant-garde decorations, including exotic hunting scenes and a drop cloth painted to resemble raw meat, guests at the Cave were treated to shadow plays, opera, experimental dance, comedy sketches and poetry, which was barely audible above the raucous chatter.' ... Keep reading on The Guardian