Mirabelle Marden, an artist by practice, trade and lineage, continues to toy with nostalgic elements of the retail experience.
Today she will reveal a new shoppable installation, “Garage Sale,” inside her gallery Plain Pleasures, which is located on the second floor of an unnamed Chinatown mall in Manhattan. Over the last two years, the two-story building at 75 East Broadway has evolved into a nexus for experimental retail, spearheaded by artists, designers and thinkers.
Marden opened her first effort there, called Plain Pleasures Market in December — setting a colorful holiday souk stuffed with traveled souvenirs, friends’ craftworks and vintage odds and ends. In the months since, her mall space has become a revolving door of art shows and guest pop-up shops from friends like Stella Schnabel.
For Marden, keeping store at Plain Pleasures is about replicating travel experiences and “creating an environment. I’m making an expression of how I see things. Whenever I go somewhere I like to look at the markets and everyday stores — they let you experience a place.”
Garage Sale will include items sourced and rummaged on trips to Lisbon, Nevis, Marrakesh, Mexico City and Paris. “I wanted it to look like a storage space, I hung up old posters and portraits,” she said of the installation — open tonight through Saturday.
Cheeky underwear from Nevis’ markets, embroidered with “Sexy Girl” are priced from $6 to $10, velvet jackets from Marrakech range from $325 to $400, Italian shoes cost $90 and artfully labeled sardine tins from Lisbon are $10.
For Marden, this mix is a sentimental yet scarce concept in modern retailing. “I think it makes it personal — I think people appreciate it, particularly when everything starts looking the same. Instagram accounts all have the same shade of pink, all of the photos are blurry. It’s nice to have something that feels really different and unexpected,” she said.
Bunking the nationwide trend for dying malls, 75 East Broadway is in a state of revitalization — becoming a downtown community center for the artfully inclined.
Marden feels it could serve as a comeback model for other malls: “There is just a different sense of community — you can do different things: listen to records and buy a hard-to-find book [at 2 Bridges Music Arts], find a vintage piece [at James Veloria], buy some fruit downstairs [at the fruit market] — you can do that all in one afternoon in one space. I think people want something like this more and more — not just super high-end, but something in-between that’s culturally relevant.”
Garage Sale is Marden’s final effort in Plain Pleasure’s current space before temporarily relocating her practice to Paris for three months. Upon her return, Marden will move her operation to a larger, corner space in the mall.