Artists to Watch: Holiday Window Edition
Which windows work with which artist?
The Big Apple is an iconic location during the winter months. Every year, New Yorkers and tourists alike crowd midtown to get a glimpse of the iconic department store holiday window displays, and are treated to each store’s distinctive style, ranging from the classically Christmas-y to some very abstract contemporary designs. We’re highlighting this year’s most notable window displays from quintessential New York stores, and imagined pairing them with artists that share their aesthetic and could be seamlessly added to the festive decor.
Without fail, Bloomingdale’s brings show-stopping holiday windows to their loyal shoppers with inventive themes and high-production values. This year, working with a floral designer to create a bold “Holiday Through the Senses” display, Bloomingdale’s hosts mirrored sculptures, intricate floral designs, candy dispensers, a signature scent, and piped-in holiday music in its famous windows. We feel like New York-based light artist Vicki Da Silva’s work could be the perfect addition to these elaborate displays: her light paintings and graffiti would fit right in the already-bright décor, further enticing shoppers and bringing some extra-arty holiday cheer.
Fashion elite flock to Barneys to see what this on-trend store has to offer—both in terms of merchandise and in what they come up with for their window displays. This year, going with the theme “Chillin’ Out,” Barneys collaborated with artists and craftsmen to create an elaborate and theatrical winter paradise, filled with ice carvers, castles, and brightly lit sculptures. Danish-Icelandic visual artist Olafur Eliasson is no stranger to working with ice, having made an ice car for BMW, as well as the recently unveiled “Ice Watch” series in Paris earlier this month. His diverse experience with sculpture, painting, photography, and installations of various mediums remind us of Barneys’ vision of “Chillin’ Out.”
Bergdorf Goodman draws in their chic clientele with standout windows and exclusive collaborations with designers and artists. This year, they’ve made the savvy choice to team up with Swarovski Crystals to create the sparkly, eye-catching “Brilliant Holiday” windows, and the results are dazzling. Celebrated for her close-up and sensual images featuring glittering women, artist and photographer Marilyn Minter’s work has a parallel mix of high fashion and fine art, and would certainly be able to glitter alongside the millions of Swarovski crystals Bergdorf brought to 58th and 5th.
For 2015, Tiffany’s has mounted a 19th century-inspired miniature theater wonderland. Wide gates reveal a grand staircase opening up to a winter palace in white and Tiffany blue decked out in jewels. The facade is covered with a dazzling lightshow, referring back to the fireworks display that was created for the Tiffany Diamond at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, and features a replica of the famed 128.54 carat diamond. The jewelry and the colors immediately made us think of Brooklyn-based Graham Caldwell. Perhaps he could be next year’s window designer? His glass-drop installations—which look like over-sized jewels covering walls in an icy waterfall—or 3D faceted mirrors would be a wonderful winter wonderland experience.
Henri Bendel’s beloved brand of sophisticated whimsy comes to life every December through their festive windows, always finding a way to delight their fans. Celebrating their 120th anniversary this year and a 20-year relationship with fashion illustrator Izak Zenzou, Bendel has created a spirited display highlighting dozens of illustrations of “Bendel girls,” bringing an upscale townhouse feel to the store. As for an artist pairing, Brazilian furniture designers Fernando and Humberto Campana come to mind. Famous for their use of everyday materials—especially their playful panda chairs—their lighthearted and contemporary aesthetic would certainly be at home in this department store’s friendly approach.
Saks Fifth Avenue:
Saks’ facade has been transformed into a Russian winter palace, covered in thousands of light strings, transporting us to fairytale versions of historical places: there’s the Colosseum in Rome covered in ice, the Great Wall of China blanketed by snow, the usually tropical Great Barrier Reef frozen solid, and the Taj Mahal floating in an all-white landscape. This re-interpretation of the old world reminds us of Ebony Patterson’s installations. She takes traditional themes and materials, such as embroidered tapestries or vintage textiles, and places them in a modern settings, like the fast-paced world of Youtube videos and nightclubs, where fierce-looking mannequins are adorned with worn-out sneakers and fancy runway clothes. The result is a stage that looks like a vintage store set in the future—and something tells us that would fit right in at Saks. Patterson’s first New York museum solo show, “Ebony Patterson: Dead Treez” is currently on view at the Museum of Arts and Design.
Lord & Taylor:
This year, Lord & Taylor partnered up with Habitat NYC to take us on a trip down memory lane to beloved childhood fantasies. The theme, “A Few of Our Favorite Things,” comes alive through scenes like the one of dancing gingerbread men in front of a classic New York row house façade, or a miniature dollhouse mansion that serves as an ornate advent calendar, with 24 windows counting down the days until Christmas.
We can’t help but be reminded of Melora Kuhn’s work, an American artist represented by Galerie EIGEN + ART in Berlin. Her oil paintings depict classic motifs, interrupted—in some cases by a group of wild fighting dogs, or, in another, a station wagon bursting through the walls of a delicate Baroque interior. Kuhn’s paintings show two stories at once, from two different perspectives, by taking an idea from mythology and disrupting master narratives of art history. Her surreal, intricate imagery would be an interesting addition to the otherwise resolutely sweet holiday décor.
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the classic television special, Macy’s has chosen the theme of A Charlie Brown Christmas. The characters are life-sized and narratives are written on the store windows, as the Peanuts gang acts out nostalgic scenes from their snowy cartoon village. The windows are colorful, cheerful, humorous, and heart-felt, and we feel like Brook Overline, a Pennsylvania-based watercolor painter, would be a welcome addition to the display. Her use of color, texture, and warm imagery would pair nicely with this trip down a whimsical memory lane, as Brook’s paintings are both relatable and vibrant. She paints subjects from her memories, utilizing unexpected textures and palettes to emphasize real emotional attachment. Imagining her artwork come to life in Macy’s interactive display would be a true miracle on 34th street.
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