The Wall Street Journal - At Saks, More Than Just Window Dressing

LaToya Ruby Frazier : Saks, Greater New York

Saks Fifth Avenue


On Tuesday evening Saks Fifth Avenue unveiled a stretch of windows displaying the merchandise of some of its signature designers including Alexander McQueen and Issey Miyake. The windows incorporate art work created by a handful of artists who are included in the upcoming MoMA PS1 show “Greater New York,” which opens May 23 in the museum’s Long Island City home.

The arrangement with Saks is similar to others the museum has done in the past, a MoMA PS1 spokeswoman said. But the interplay between commerce and culture often raises difficult questions.

Artists for the project were chosen by the museum, then given instructions by Saks. They were encouraged?but not required?to incorporate merchandise in their work, according to Julio Gomez, Saks’s director of windows, and all 11 displays include Saks-sold products. Artists? rather than window designers ?chose the merchandise they wished to include, a scenario that a spokeswoman for Saks described as “unique” but not unprecedented. Some of the artwork displayed was created specifically for the windows.

The idea for the collaboration originated with the museum. The MoMA PS1 spokeswoman said that curators helped select the artists for the project, but that “there is not a significant curatorial process with regard to the collaboration with Saks.”

“They have to show a little bit of merchandise in there, and hopefully they’re okay with that,” Mr. Gomez said.

Not everyone was. Artist Brody Condon said that the concept made him “uncomfortable” initially. “There are obvious crossovers between the art world and the fashion world and I’m not always clear about my relationship with either one,” he said. “The boundaries are very blurry.”

Mr. Condon, a New York-based installation artist, said he ultimately appreciated the opportunity to use the venue because it presented “an interesting installation environment.”

Other artists said they had no qualms about the arrangement. “I kind of welcome any opportunity to get my work out there and I think in this situation it’s going to reach a different audience than it would at PS1,” Virginia Overton said. “I say bring it on.”