By  on June 12, 2014

H&M is getting arty.

The Swedish retailer’s biggest store, a 57,000-square-foot flagship on Fifth Avenue and 48th Street in Manhattan, is being designed to resemble an art museum. In addition, H&M is teaming with Jeff Koons, the artist known for his “balloon” sculptures of flora and fauna. The opening, July 17, will overlap with Koons’ highly anticipated retrospective at the Whitney Museum of Art, running June 27 to Oct. 19, which H&M is sponsoring.

Koons, who has sold his work for as much as $58.4 million, designed a handbag for H&M priced at $49.95. The limited-edition Balloon Dog handbag will be sold in select markets in the U.S., including Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas, as well as online, beginning July 17. The handbag will also be sold at the Whitney during the retrospective.

“It’s one of our most important openings of the year,” said a spokeswoman. “This is the first time H&M has partnered with an artist and sponsored a museum show in the U.S.”

While H&M is an art virgin in the U.S., fashion brands have been linking with artists for years. Memorable examples include Vanessa Beecroft’s Gucci-clad models in a 1998 show at the Guggenheim Museum of Art and Louis Vuitton’s 2003 partnership with Takashi Murakami. More recently, Miuccia Prada commissioned six contemporary artists to create murals for her spring 2014 catwalk.

Koons has had no shortage of commercial hook-ups, including a BMW art car and a Balloon Venus for Dom Pérignon.

“The partnership with H&M was really exciting for me,” Koons said. “The chance to showcase one of my most popular works to a new generation of people was inspiring. H&M delivers great fashion season after season and [it will be] nice to see my work at their new store.”

For the opening, the artist’s Yellow Balloon Dog will be blown up to cover the flagship’s five-story windows with the message “Fashion Loves Art” written across the entire facade.

The company continues to pump up the size of its stores. The Fifth Avenue flagship will be unseated as the biggest store later this year when a 63,000-square-foot unit opens in Herald Square. But the flagship will hold on to the title of most upscale in the U.S. H&M said it tried to reflect the “elegance and world-class level” of neighboring buildings and storefronts on Fifth Avenue by using elevated materials to build the flagship, including green and white marble, herringbone woodwork and a wall of mirrors, along with vitrines and pillars.

With six floors of fashion, each with its own museum-inspired theme, the store will have a five-story atrium with a 26-by-20-foot LED screen. The store will be the first to carry all categories, including men’s and women’s apparel, lingerie, accessories, newborn and children’s wear, special sizes, maternity and cosmetics, and will boast the first home department. In another first for H&M, there will be a full VIP concierge shopping service.

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