Byline: David Moin

NEW YORK — Great art often inspires fashion. Now, in a reverse case, Larry Rivers, inspired by runway shows and fashion advertising, has created a series of paintings and drawings called Fashion Show Monte Carlo 2001 and will exhibit 24 pieces in Lord & Taylor’s Fifth Avenue windows here April 15-24.
For L&T, showcasing Rivers — among America’s most renowned and enduring figurative artists — represents a coup in the chain’s drive to raise its profile. It’s also a sign of stepping out, somewhat, from the matrix mentality of the parent, May Department Stores, which leaves operating divisions with little autonomy.
The L&T specialty chain has long maintained a higher fashion quotient than other May Co. divisions, which are full-line department stores. Since Jane Elfers became L&T’s ceo last May, there’s greater distinction in the stores, with the advertising, catalogs and certain interiors getting updated, and more art displayed in the windows.
“There’s no question we have to find ways to attract new customers,” said Lavelle Olexa, L&T’s senior vice president of fashion merchandising, who also has window design under her wing. “Bringing art exhibits to the store brings added value to the store. It doesn’t have to just be art. We have a children’s program with celebrity readings. These kind of cultural events feed the soul.”
Olexa learned of Rivers’ latest exhibit through the Marlborough Gallery, which represents Rivers, and last month worked with L&T to showcase artwork by Hunt Slonem in the windows. She met Rivers at his apartment here, which is rigged with a stage set up with musical instruments. He’s also a jazz musician.
“I definitely got the feeling he is open to new ideas,” Olexa said. His latest fashion-influenced exhibit “is so relevant,” she added. “There’s is a huge interest in Pop Art today and Larry Rivers seems so interested in magazine ads and runway fashion. He’s someone with a multitude of interests.”
After L&T, the show travels to the Marlborough gallery in Monaco. Rivers is scheduled to appear at the store Tuesday at 12:30 p.m.
The works are colorful, and sometimes put a quirky, kind-of-inflated focus on shoes and accessories. One piece entitled “Shoe in Landscape” depicts a giant platform shoe next to a tree. There’s also a picture showing a woman wearing a turban of straps and belts. It’s called “Straps and Belts Can Make a Turban.” Designers take notice.