BERGDORF’S ART WORLD

Byline: Janet Ozzard

NEW YORK — “There’s always been a love dance between art and fashion,” said Tobias Meyer, worldwide head of Contemporary Art at Sotheby’s. That dance will be particularly visible from today through April 25 at Bergdorf Goodman, which installed $800,000 worth of contemporary painting, photography and sculpture in its windows alongside spring fashions from Comme des Garcons, Ann Demeulemeester, Veronique Branquinho, Balenciaga, Hussein Chalayan, Dolce & Gabbana, John Bartlett, Olivier Theyskens, Costume National and Yohji Yamamoto. The artists include Julian Schnabel, Chuck Close, Robert Rauschenberg, Claes Oldenburg, Christo, Ross Bleckner and Jennifer Bartlett.
“Art and fashion have always had a cross-referential relationship,” added Linda Fargo, vice president of visual merchandising at Bergdorf’s.
The retailer has worked with Sotheby’s on a few such short-term installations, including a showing of items from the Duke and Duchess of Windsor’s collection two years ago, and a baseball memorabilia exhibition last year.
But this particular project has an ulterior motive: All the artwork on display will be auctioned at Sotheby’s on May 8, and the proceeds are going to Art Moves to Benefit the Cure, a charity fine art Internet and live auction that will benefit the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation and the Spinal Cord Injury Project at Rutgers University.
In a way, said Meyer, Bergdorf’s is serving as a very visible preview gallery. Shoppers who are feeling particularly flush can even place silent bids for the works on the Sotheby’s Web site or right at Bergdorf’s — the retailer is installing iMacs on its main floor specifically for that purpose. “I had no qualms at all” about putting art into a fashion arena, said Meyer. “It’s a sophisticated environment. If you can handle a couture dress, you can handle a painting.
“We have to be flexible,” he added. “At the end of the day, what Sotheby’s wanted to do was make as much money as possible for this charity, and therefore to reach as broad an audience as possible. So we’re, in effect, trying a new way of marketing.”
“My first thought was, I don’t want to match the art to the dress,” said James Aguiar, fashion director for ready-to-wear at Bergdorf’s, who chose the looks that are in the windows with the artwork. “No flower painting with flower dresses, that kind of thing.”
So Aguiar thought more broadly: Art world = downtown = black. He pulled a group of all-black ensembles from the store’s edgiest designers. Not only will viewers get an eyeful of Contemporary Art, they’ll see that Bergdorf’s is making its own creative statement.
“These are our most advanced designers,” said Aguiar, “and this is the first time we’re really getting the city to see what we have.”

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