By  on June 26, 2007

NEW YORK — Bloomingdale's and Macy's are chasing contemporary art almost as vigorously as fashion exclusives.

The art is for windows and catalogues as a backdrop for merchandise, and to dress up store interiors.

"We are not looking to become a gallery," said Jack Hruska, executive vice president of creative services for Bloomingdale's. "We're looking to recognize art and artists as important contributions to the lives of our customers."

"It's about the fusion of art and fashion," said Nicole Fischelis, vice president and fashion director, Macy's East.

At Bloomingdale's 59th Street flagship, there is a different kind of glamour and sensuality in the windows — erotic photographs of model Margarita Svegzdaite, sprayed in gold paint, dripping gold beads of perspiration, posed naked or in a metallic bikini, or wrapped in solid gold vines. The photos are juxtaposed with designer gowns that seem restrained in comparison.

The exhibit, more bacchanalian than Ian Fleming, is called "Liquid Gold" and is the work of photographer Bettina Rheims of Paris. It's a prelude to a Bloomingdale's strategy that takes off this fall to promote artists, particularly emerging ones, and incorporate art into marketing. A September catalogue called "Artrageous" will spotlight trends of the season and will be followed by "Art Seen" catalogues for ready-to-wear, large sizes, New View bridge looks, men's wear and beauty. The flagship's windows will exhibit artists from Aug. 27 until the start of the holiday season, when the windows will switch to displaying large reproductions of children's art from The Children's Museum of Manhattan and The Children's Museum of Art.

Bloomingdale's will also support the New Museum of Contemporary Art, opening in November, with pop-up stores inside the 59th Street and SoHo units selling gift-oriented items from the museum shop.

To decorate Bloomingdale's stores around the country, photographers have long been hired to capture the communities. "We still do that, but we have also started to make large-scale purchases of art, which began with the opening of our San Francisco store last fall," Hruska said. "Now that our store design is more modern, there's a greater opportunity to apply art. Our stores have more amenities, open spaces to relax, lounges and seating areas where a beautiful piece of art enhances the space."

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