Shopping at Bloomingdale’s 59th Street flagship has become a more enlightening experience.
In addition to the fashion by brands such as Chanel, Moncler, Oscar de la Renta and Max Mara, customers on the fourth floor can also ogle the artwork in Heritage Auctions’ urban art exhibition. More than 40 pieces are on view through March 14; the art will go under the hammer four days later.
In addition to the objects on display on the designer floor and Third Avenue windows, the auction offers rare and important artwork across all mediums by artists such as Invader, Shepard Fairey, Banksy and Retna, whose painting may break the artist’s auction record, which was set by Heritage in December.
Most pieces are works by contemporary artists, with Kaws, Ba@rbrick and Supreme, and the cutting-edge counterculture collaborations they established with brands and artists such as Cindy Sherman, Chanel and Robert Longo. Heritage was early in identifying skate decks as a medium used by artists, and has included examples in the exhibition such as Alien Workshop’s collaborations with the Keith Haring and Andy Warhol foundations.
“This is the first time we’ve done an exhibition in a department store,” said Leon Benrimon, director of modern and contemporary art at Heritage Auctions. “Thinking of using a retail space as a public space is an interesting idea. You can expose clients to a different level of artwork than they would normally be exposed to.
“You’re presenting an exhibition where objects are not immediately for sale or for purchase,” Benrimon added. “Instead of being bombarded with something else that you can buy, you can enjoy these amazing collectibles. If they influence you or change the way you think about art, so much the better.”
“Bloomingdale’s is excited to partner with Heritage Auctions to bring this interesting art exhibit to our 59th Street flagship,” said Sharon Wax, Bloomingdale’s senior vice president of designer and concessions. “The careful curation of art fits perfectly among our designer collections and brings excitement to the store in a unique way.”
Bloomingdale’s partnership with Heritage Auctions may be ongoing, sources said.
Among the highlights of the exhibit is a Be@rbrick x Chanel resin figure wearing the requisite black and white jacket, pearls and a white camellia. The doll, which Benrimon called “the holy grail” of Be@rbrick, has an official auction estimate of $10,000 to $15,000, but Benrimon said he “wouldn’t be shocked if it sells for between $20,000 and $30,000.
“It’s almost like an urban legend,” Benrimon said of the doll. “Everyone who has one of the Chanel figures covets it so much. We sell a lot of the Be@rbricks, about 100 to 200 in every auction. The Chanel Be@rbrick is numbered and it’s very specific. We only have one Chanel Be@rbrick. We haven’t sold any before and don’t know if we’ll ever sell one again.”
Artist-of-the-moment Kaws is well-represented in the exhibit, Benrimon said. “Kaws is the big one. He did a collaboration with Uniqlo. Most people strongly feel that Kaws is the pulse and the lifeblood of what’s going on in contemporary urban culture. Kaws has become the big draw for our auction. We have 100 Kaws pieces and artist skateboard decks.”
Urban art is Heritage’s fastest-growing category, jumping from $300,000 to $3 million in 18 months, and is projected to grow to $4 million this year. Last season, Heritage held an entire auction devoted to Supreme. A skate deck by Cindy Sherman, featuring “Untitled” from “Grotesque” series, and produced in conjunction with Supreme, is part of an upcoming lot.
“The whole idea is to tap into subculture and counterculture,” Benrimon said. “We sold 10 skate decks when we started urban art auctions. We’re selling 100 skate decks in the upcoming one. After we introduced skate decks, Sotheby’s followed. We were the first auction house to sell collectible sneakers, and then Phillips started selling them.”
Work by U.K.-based anonymous street artist Banksy is featured in the exhibition. “From a marketing perspective, he’s a very smart artist,” said Benrimon. “Conceptually, his message is strong. He’s done an amazing job releasing objects over the last 20 years and he’s grown the value of objects you can buy.”
Banksy sculptures from different shows that the artist made in series of tens, are hard to come by, Benrimon said. The artist in 2017 built in the West Bank The Walled Off Hotel in support of Palestinians, opposite the massive wall built by Israel. “Some collectors have made the voyage and bought some objects,” Benrimon said. “We’ve sold items from that hotel for tens of thousands of dollars.
“Bloomingdale’s is taking a slice of contemporary culture,” he added. “Art influences every part of our lives and heavily influences fashion. The street and urban vibe is a little grittier. With the rise of urban culture, people identify with that.”