ART OF THE MATTER: Art and commerce are well engrained in the shopping experience in some locales. British artist Rosie McGinn’s inflatable puppets adorn Balenciaga’s midtown Manhattan store and Derrick Adams’ “Funtime Unicorns” can be found in and around the retail-laden Rockefeller Center.
This summer shoppers and pedestrians in Boston should keep their eyes peeled beyond Brooks Bros. closing its 80-year-old Newbury Street store or the renovation of the former Lord & Taylor on Boylston Street into a Dick’s Sporting Goods store. Two drastically different installations can be found in areas of the city.
In an unexpected alliance, WS Development recruited the Sweden-based artist collective AnonyMouse to create some of its signature miniature installations in and around Boston amid the developer’s properties. In an email exchange, Yasha Mouskewitz said the group is a “loosely connected network of mice and men” who don’t want the focus to be on them. And the base changes from one project to the next depending on the skills that are needed.
AnonyMouse started out doing street art for children and is happy to continue to make public art for children when the right situation presents itself. Their inches-high streetscapes in “Mouseachusetts” include the “Massachusetts Mouseum of Fine Art” and other stores like “Whiskers & Tail” that offers alterations, repair and formal hire. The 10 diminutive structures can be found in five WS properties including the shopping-heavy Boston Seaport district and The Street Chestnut Hill in nearby Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. “We are not really interested in the commercial aspect of this. We don’t promote a specific shop or brand,” Mousekewitz said.
AnonyMouse didn’t have any reservations about doing such a commercial project or having followers see the collective as a sellout. Noting how WS Development has worked with contemporary artists in the past, the group considered the alliance to be a good fit.
“We don’t want our installations to sell anything. We are a bit stubborn about letting art be art. And they let us do that. We are happy to make public art and our focus is always on bringing something whimsical to an otherwise forgotten part of a street,” Mouskewitz said.
Keeping their identity under wraps enhances “the idea that we can be whoever the observer wants us to be. Also, the children can believe it was built by mice, if there is no human face for it,” one of the artists explained. “We don’t want the focus to be on us; we want it to feel real.”
Another artistic effort in Boston this summer is decidedly unmissable. Yenny Hernandez has spruced up the Boylston Street entrance of the Prudential Center with a vibrant tropical mural. The Latine creative, who gave up her job as a full-time graphic artist at Northeastern University in January to focus on art, was chosen by the nonprofit Now + There for the public art project.
Up until mid-October and close to an Under Armour store, the 2,500-square-foot work is made with decals on glass, featuring flowers, a mango, a parrot, a “cafeteria” traditional coffee maker, and a line from a poem that her mother had written for her as a child, “Let Your Dreams Take Flight.” Positivity and encouragement are recurring themes in her work and the installation is no exception. It also features images that could be understood by fellow members of the Latine community. Located in a highly trafficked area, the work is meant to convey a message for all to enjoy and is written in English and Spanish.
As for the role that stores and public places have in introducing new artists and piquing people’s interest in art, Hernandez said, “There is something special when a commercial space engages in public art. People don’t expect to see public art in such areas, including ones where they are going about their daily lives. That’s why it’s special. There is that element of surprise. You are going about your life and stumble across something that can motivate you or engage your thoughts. That is really important and powerful when commercial buildings and public spaces can intersect.”
The artist was pleased to see at the unveiling that the mural didn’t require much explanation. “One of the things I set out to do was to create a moment of happiness and color. When you walk into the space, you are greeted with the sense, ‘Oh, there is something nice happening here,’” she said. “I want people to have a moment of encouragement and reflection: What is your dream? How are you pursuing it?”
While the mural has only been up since earlier this month, Hernandez said a few small businesses and shops have already approached her about possibly working together. Talks are underway for a show of her work in Colombia next month. Not currently represented by a gallery, Hernandez relies on social media as her biggest platform with @Yennycreate on Instagram being where she creates, shares her work and engages with fellow and potential clients.
Executives at Boston Properties did not respond to a request for comment.