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."Macy's is advancing its "Art Under Glass" concept, where the Herald Square flagship's windows become a sidewalk gallery for contemporary and cutting-edge artists. "The point is you don't have to go to a museum or a gallery to experience art," said a Macy's spokeswoman.
The program, which started last fall, has its second installment July 9 through 25 and continues this fall. It's curated by Gabrielle Bryers, an art dealer, and conceptualized with Paul Olszewski, director of windows for Macy's Herald Square, and Fischelis. The July windows will showcase 11 contemporary and cutting-edge artists, including Federico Uribe's flock of outsized mosquitoes and a 20-minute video called "Paper Dolls" by Shannon Plumb, who portrays herself as model, photographer, magazine editor and fashionista, and stages a runway show with paper fashions.
Other artists are Nicholas Howey, Misaki Kawai, Cassandra Lozano, Taylor McKimens, Alex Nahon, Devin Powers, Lucas Reiner, Silas Shabelewska and Russell Young. "It's a very comprehensive collection in a variety of media, from paintings to paper sculpture to glass spheres and Super 8 loops," Kazan said.
On July 10, Macy's will hold a private cocktail reception for the artists as well as Anna Sui, who will preview several art-inspired looks from her retrospective exhibit coming to Macy's in the fall. Sui's designs — along with other better, bridge and contemporary designers and brands, such as O Oscar, Tahari, INC, Calvin Klein, Michael by Michael Kors, and DKNY — sold at Macy's are showcased with the artwork in the windows.
"Macy's has a long history of integrating fashion with art," Macy's East chairman and chief executive officer Ron Klein said in a statement. "One of our first forays into showcasing contemporary art came in 1942 when Latvian-born American painter and printmaker Mark Rothko unveiled his latest paintings at Macy's Herald Square. With the summer 2007 'Art Under Glass' exhibition, we have now come full circle, as one of the featured artists has looked to Rothko's work as an inspiration, affirming the timeless impact of art."
"Liquid Gold," a traveling exhibition sponsored by Chablis, stays at Bloomingdale's until Monday, moves to the New York Palace Hotel for the rest of July, and winds up in Grand Central Terminal, at the Metrazur restaurant, from Sept. 18 to Oct 15. Rheims is known for her powerful and controversial images capturing intimate moments of famous women. "This is something I love to do: taking photos of naked women," Rheims said. "Working on the body has always been part of my work."
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