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Eyes might be the windows to the soul, and windows, holiday or otherwise, have always been the eyes to the retail soul — their primary purpose to entice shoppers — and push the merch. In one instance, as recalled by retail legend Ira Neimark, the windows did their job, much to the chagrin of a notoriously eccentric surrealist painter.

In 1939, Ira Neimark, a doorboy at the former Bonwit Teller on Fifth Avenue, had the surprise of his life. The store, among the most innovative in the country at the time, had asked Salvador Dalí to create window displays. One day, Dalí pulled up in a cab and noticed that one of his displays was not quite as he had created it. Featured was a mink-lined bathtub with a mannequin in the tub wearing a similar mink. But a customer earlier noticed the mannequin and decided to buy the mink, so a salesperson took the mink from the mannequin, sold it, and replaced it with another that had not been of Dalí’s choosing. That infuriated the artist — the thought that someone would tamper with his vision. He stormed into the store, went straight to the display and shoved the bathtub right out through the window. “All of a sudden I heard this big smash,” recalled Neimark, who was stationed at the front door at the time. “It was amazing. People came running to see what happened. If I remember correctly, water came pouring out of the tub.”

This story first appeared in the December 9, 2015 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

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