POP GOES THE CULTURE
Byline: Sharon Edelson
NEW YORK — Christmas windows were usually warm and fuzzy around here.
Then Barneys New York came along with its sarcasm and satire, deranged Zodiacs and pop-culture caricatures of Tammy Faye Bakker and Karl Lagerfeld.
Last year, there were art windows with a Hello Kitty nativity scene that raised the ire of at least one religious group.
Barneys filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January and has been embroiled in a bitter dispute with its Japanese partner, Isetan, but even that hasn’t put a damper on creativity.
This year, the retailer is doing pop culture with a twist. In the past, Barneys often devoted a whole window to a single life-size papier-mechA character. This year, themed windows are a hodgepodge of mementos, relics and debris.
A window called “Politically Incorrect Yule” is a tribute to blondes of the 20th century.
You can bet that Madonna as Eva Peron is represented behind the glass. The actress, who appears in a painting by Josh Gosfield, loaned Barneys a suit, fur coat and Ferragamo shoes she wore in “Evita.”
Other blondes honored for their blondeness include Linda Evans and Shirley Jones. The former sent her hairbrush, the latter her wig. Somewhere in the collage is Suzanne Somers’ Buttmaster, Sharon Stone’s favorite photograph of herself and Bo Derek’s suede chaps.
Simon Doonan, Barneys executive vice president of creative services, said the windows have “an old curiosity shop, demented, post-nuclear quality.”
Another window at the Madison Avenue flagship is devoted to Frank Sinatra and called “Blue-Eyed Yule.”
“It’s an homage to Frank as a king of style,” Doonan said, “and the way he showed men how to wear tailored clothing, but in a dAgage, louche style that influenced people for decades. We got a box of stuff from his agent — some ties and programs from his concerts.
“The window is a fairly broad tribute to Frank, and a tribute is appropriate regardless of his health status,” said Doonan, referring to Sinatra’s recent hospital stay. “Nothing in the window is invalid in the event that something changes. But from what I understand, he’s in good health.”
“Neurotic Yule” sends up Sigmund Freud, “Glorious Yule” is a tribute to Martin Luther King and “Cool Yule” celebrates the Beat poets.
The windows at the Madison Avenue store will be installed by Saturday.
At Barneys’ downtown store on 17th Street, three windows, which will be unveiled on Nov. 21, will be a tribute to black music, including hip-hop, blues and soul.
Windows at Barneys’ branch stores will be product oriented, Doonan said. The Beverly Hills unit, however, will have a large Christmas tree made of discarded computer debris.
“People really enjoyed our celebrity windows, and they were done at the height of America’s celebrity obsession,” Doonan said. “We challenged ourselves to revisit that idea in a different way. There are no caricature dolls. This is a very dense installation that uses a lot of original artwork, so people are represented through paintings, photographs, drawings. They’re much more art oriented and less kitsch oriented, although the blondes window has a little kitsch.”