Byline: Janet Ozzard

NEW YORK — For the next week, Gianni Versace’s vivid design aesthetic will be visible on Madison Avenue. The display, however, is not in one of the Italian design house’s signature stores. Instead, Barneys New York is dedicating its flagship’s main windows to furnishings from the late designer’s Miami mansion, Casa Casuarina. The collection will be auctioned at Sotheby’s here April 5-7.
Simon Doonan, creative director of Barneys, whose own home is rife with Versace Medusa-head pillows, said he wanted to bring a smattering of the collection — about 500 lots will be auctioned — together before it’s potentially dispersed across the globe.
“The house was really such a testament to the great spirit of Southern Italian style,” said Doonan. “It was so great. There were Medusa heads everywhere, even on the trash bins.”
The windows are also Doonan’s way of making sure that Versace’s aesthetic is not forgotten.
“For me personally, it’s a nice way of celebrating Gianni,” he said. “You know, in a few years there’s going to be a new generation of people in fashion, and they’ll forget how important this moment in the early Nineties was. It’s nice to remember that house as a place of exuberance, hedonism, exhibitionism and not the terrible way it all ended.” While the colors, patterns, fringe and trim might come off at first as a cacophony, Doonan said Versace had outstanding taste and high-quality craftsmanship.
“I was looking at one of the printed velvet pillows and there seem to be at least 30 colors,” in one pattern, he said. In addition to his own designs, Versace collected antique and modern furniture and paintings. The total collection has an estimated value of $5 million to $7 million, according to Sotheby’s.
However, the eye-catching display at Barneys — “We picked the least subtle stuff,” Doonan said gleefully — is doing double-duty: there will be some spring women’s merchandise featured on mannequins lounging amid the Medusas. It marks a return to Barneys for the Versace line after an absence of several years, said Doonan, and will give viewers a chance to see the differences in the siblings’ sensibilities.
“There’s a new simplicity to what Donatella is doing,” he said. “So you’ll get a nice bit of Versace dialectic.”

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