NEW YORK — Entering the penthouse level of Ralph Pucci International at 44 West 18th Street here, the first impression is the wall mural.
Not quite in your face, but directly in the line of sight from the entrance, each mural is created by the same sculptor, furniture designer, fashion designer, photographer or artist exhibiting in the showroom, to help set the mood and sell the products. Every three months or so, the exhibit changes, so the wall gets repainted with a new mural replacing the old one. They’re gone but not forgotten: over two decades of the fleeting wall art has been documented in a book called “Wall” (Glitterati Inc.), compiled by Pucci and his close associate Ken Smart, and launching Wednesday with a party at the showroom. The murals were photographed by Antoine Bootz.
“We’ve worked with some of the greatest artists and creators in the world,” said Pucci, citing Andrée Putman, Jens Risom, Vladimir Kagan, Hervé Van der Straeten, Christopher Makos and Kenny Scharf, among others. “Creating murals is a step further for them, into another creative dimension.”
Since the wall murals are temporary, unlike a canvas painting that could be sold, “the artists can create something really fantastic and uninhibited by commercial restrictions,” Pucci said. “This is total freedom of expression. The idea is to capture the spirit of the collection whether it’s furniture, photography, sculpture or the mannequins,” which is the original product line Pucci’s business was built upon.
In a handful of instances, Pucci’s wall art has not been temporary and could be sold, such as when the front wall was covered in Deborah Turbeville’s atmospheric photographs of Versailles, France, behind the scenes. Or when Dana Barnes created a wall of fiber art, with wool intertwined in a way resembling a mass of mollusks or something grotesquely serpentine.
On the penthouse, a mural would be 14-by-16 feet. The ninth floor is also a space for Pucci exhibits, and for corresponding murals typically 10 by 14 feet.
About 90 percent of the murals have been done by the same artists showing. In other cases, artists not showing have created wall art, though “they’re well acquainted with the products,” such as when Malcolm Hill painted an abstract mural as the backdrop for Jim Zivic’s display table and bench, made from coal, Pucci noted. In fashion circles, Hill is well known for work adorning Barneys New York and Bergdorf Goodman. He took about three days for his mural, while Ruben Toledo and Scharf worked very quickly, taking a few hours to complete a mural.
“Every artist is different. Some of it is very spontaneous,” Pucci said. “We really feel the wall becomes a tool that sells the environment and keeps us innovative and fresh.”